I have two pieces currently on display as part of the annual month-long Station North Salon Show in Baltimore, which is a big art show that’s so big that it’s literally spread out over several venues in the area. Both of my pieces are currently on display at the Station North Arts Cafe through August 29 and they are also on sale. You can view my art on display only during the cafe’s opening hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. (The cafe is closed on Sundays.)

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Revenge Against Kendall Jones (See my original August 5, 2014 entry for details.)

Robot Diavolino

Robot Diavolino (See my original June 24, 2014 entry for details.)

For more information about the venue (Station North Arts Cafe) where my pieces are being display, consult either the cafe’s website or Facebook page. For more details about the entire show itself, click here. Remember, this show will close on August 29.

For the past few Throwback Thursdays I’ve been reviewing a series of books put out by American Girl (yes, that’s the doll company) about a girl growing up in the 1970’s named Julie Albright. Since I was a young girl back in the 1970’s, I thought it would be fun to compare the books to my own memories of growing up in the 1970’s. I also figured that it could provide an idea for some light summer reading.

Earlier this summer I started with all the books in the original Central Series then moved on to the Best Friend Book. I’m currently on the Julie Mystery books.

Lost in the City, originally published in 2013, is the last of the Julie Mysteries that have been published so far. Only American Girl knows whether there will be any new Julie Mysteries scheduled to be published in the future or if Lost in the City is the Julie Mysteries’ swan song—and that company is not talking. (And, no, I’m not about to engage in any speculations or rumors either. This is NOT Living a Doll’s Life.)

The book was written by Kathleen O’Dell, who has written a variety of short stories for American Girl Magazine as well as other children’s books like the Agnes Parker series. The illustrations for this book were done by Sergio Giovine, who has illustrated a number of other book covers for a variety of publishers (in addition to American Girl).

All of the Julie Mysteries follow the events in both the Central Series and the Best Friend book. Lost in the City is the fourth Julie Mystery and it follows the events in The Tangled Web, The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter, and The Silver Guitar

The one thing to keep in mind about the Julie books is that they were written for a target audience of girls between the ages 8-12. As a result there won’t be an in-depth look at certain controversial issues of the day.

The moment when Julie discovers that her pet sitting gig has suddenly gone horribly wrong.

The moment when Julie discovers that her pet sitting gig has suddenly gone horribly wrong.

Synopsis: Julie Albright is a 10-year-old white girl with long blonde hair and brown eyes growing up in 1977 San Francisco. Her parents are divorced so she spends most of her time living with her mother, who operates her store full of handcrafted items (some of which are made from repurposed and recycled clothes) called Gladrags, and her 17-year-old sister, Tracy, in a small apartment that’s located above her mother’s store. On most weekends she stays with her father, a commercial airline pilot, in the same home that the entire family lived in before the divorce.

During her visits with her father, she gets a chance to spend some quality time with her pet brown rabbit, Nutmeg (who can’t live with her because her mother’s apartment complex doesn’t allow pets), and play with her best friend who lives across the street, Ivy Ling. Nutmeg was generally written in previous books as living in Julie’s father’s home while Ivy comes over to care for the rabbit whenever Julie’s father is on one of his long plane flights. Except page 63 of the second Julie Mystery book, The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter, had described Nutmeg as now living with Ivy in her home. But in Lost in the City, Nutmeg is described as currently living with Julie’s father once again. This book doesn’t mention that Nutmeg had ever lived with the Lings or why the bunny is back with Julie’s father after living with Ivy but what comes next may explain why Nutmeg’s time as a member of the Ling household was relatively short.

The book begins with Julie happily riding in her father’s car while Dad is driving. The San Francisco public schools have closed for spring break week and her father managed to arrange his work schedule so he wouldn’t have to go on any long distance flights, which means that Julie can spend the entire week with him. On top of it, her sister Tracy has decided to spend her spring break with her friends from her high school so Julie has her father all to herself (and the reader is spared from Tracy’s frequent moping and complaining). Even though the month isn’t mentioned, The American Girl Wiki managed to pinpoint when the story takes place by doing some sleuthing. The beginning of the book mentions that Julie’s current favorite song, “Dancing Queen,” has just made number one of the pop charts while that song went to the Number 1 position on Billboard’s Hot 100 on April 9, 1977 in the United States. It sounds about right for the story to take place in April, 1977 because the last book took place in the previous month. On top of it, many schools, colleges, and universities tend to close down for spring break somewhere between mid-March to mid-April (usually to coincide with Easter and Passover).

Normally Julie would be spending time with Ivy Ling as well since she lives across the street from Julie’s father’s home. However, Ivy is going to be in Long Beach to attend her Uncle Lee’s wedding during most of Julie’s time at her father’s place. But she invites Julie to come to her home the day before she has to leave to check out a new addition to the Ling household—an African Grey parrot named Lucy. The bird had belonged to Uncle Lee but he had to give her away to the Lings because his fiancée, Hannah, refuses to live with the parrot because she feels that Lucy is too noisy. So Lucy’s cage is located in the bedroom that belongs to Ivy’s brother, Andrew, while the door is closed to keep out the Lings’ two cats, Jasmine and Wonton.

Minutes after Julie and her father arrive at his home, Julie gets a phone call from Ivy inviting her over to the Ling place so she can see Lucy in person. As Julie walks across the street, she runs into a boy named Gordon Marino, who’s a former classmate at the school Julie used to attend with Ivy before her parents’ divorce. She invites Gordon to come with her as she goes to Ivy’s house to meet Lucy. When they arrive at Ivy’s place, the three of them go to Andrew’s bedroom where Lucy and Uncle Lee are located. Lucy talks and does a variety of tricks that wows Julie and Gordon. Lucy seems especially friendly towards Julie, which impresses Uncle Lee because the bird is usually shy around strangers.

When Julie’s dinnertime curfew arrives, Gordon also leaves with her. Gordon tells Julie that he has just moved into a house that’s located just down the street from her father’s place and has invited her to come over whenever she gets bored. He starts to walk towards his home and Julie notices that Gordon seems more glum these days than when she used to be in his class and he was known as the class clown.

As Julie prepares to cross the street, Ivy catches up with Julie to give her this news: Uncle Lee was so impressed with the way that Lucy had taken to Julie that he wants to cancel the pet sitter he lined up for the week and give the job to Julie instead. When Julie accepts the offer, Ivy immediately hands a key to the Lings’ house and a set of instructions on caring for Lucy. She also tells Julie that she’ll need to show up tomorrow morning to feed both Lucy and the two cats because her family is leaving for Long Beach very early. Ivy also tells Julie that they have a couple staying at the Lings’ place. They are known as Mr. and Mrs. Shackley and they are the parents of one of Ivy’s mother’s law school classmates. Mrs. Shackley has just received a kidney transplant and she and her husband needed a place closer to the hospital so they can rest. It’s the main reason why they weren’t asked to take care of Lucy, Jasmine, and Wonton even though they are staying in the same house. The Shackleys are currently staying in the Lings’ living room and they tend to keep to themselves.

If Julie’s first day after arriving at her father’s home isn’t exciting enough, her Aunt Maia arrives at the house. Aunt Maia is in the process of moving to San Francisco and Julie’s dad had told Aunt Maia that she could stay with him until she finds a place of her own. Aunt Maia has recently been hired as an assistant chef at a new vegetarian restaurant and she’s been gung-ho about fixing vegetarian meals for Julie and her father with mixed results.

Julie’s first day on her new job as pet sitter doesn’t turn out real well. Lucy is less friendly towards Julie than she had been the day before. Julie’s attempt at feeding the cats resulted in her accidentally spilling cat food everywhere on the floor in Ivy’s bedroom and she had to clean that mess up. If that weren’t enough, Mr. Shackley scolds Julie for being too noisy when she spilled the cat food and he tells her that she walks too much like a lumberjack. He also complains about how much he hates the city because it’s too noisy and if he had had his own way he would’ve driven the long distance back to their quiet town immediately after his wife’s surgery.

That afternoon Julie sits on the front steps of her dad’s house while pondering what happened this morning. Gordon walks by and Julie invites him to come with her so he can see Lucy. When they arrive in Andrew’s bedroom, they see that a white sheet had been placed over Lucy’s cage even though Julie had removed it this morning. When Lucy sees Gordon, the bird begins to perk up while talking and performing tricks. Julie realizes that the bird had really liked Gordon and not her the first time they met Lucy before the Ling family left for the wedding.

The following morning Julie makes a horrifying discovery when she walks over to the Lings’ house so she can feed the animals. Lucy’s cage has been opened and the bird is gone! Julie manages to locate Wonton and Jasmine but Lucy is nowhere to be found anywhere in the house. Julie’s spring break vacation is suddenly getting way busier than she originally expected as she searches for the bird while pondering what could have happened.

Julie comes up with a list of suspects in Lucy’s disappearance. First, there is her former classmate Gordon. Both Lucy and Gordon seemed to like each other and Gordon had expressed a wish that he could own a pet so could he have taken her? Her Aunt Maia seems to be gone much of the time while claiming that it’s due to the demands of her new job. She also disapproves of pets being kept in cages for long stretches of time so could she be a suspect in Lucy’s disappearance as well? Let’s not forget the Shackleys, especially Mr. Shackley the noise-hater, because they are currently staying in the Lings’ household. Did Lucy somehow managed her own escape in a way that is just as creative as a prison convict’s escape from a maximum security prison? Or did the two cats, Jasmine and Wonton, decide to take advantage of the family being away by hatching some nefarious plan to get into Andrew’s room, break into Lucy’s cage, and treat themselves to a lovely parrot dinner for two?

Julie only has until the end of the week to resolve this whole thing before the Lings return from Long Beach and she has to return to her mother’s apartment. Can Lucy be found alive on the streets of San Francisco before it’s too late?

The last chapter, Looking Back, focuses on the intelligence of African Grey parrots, why many groups like the Humane Society currently don’t recommend keeping parrots as pets, how it’s now illegal to import parrots that were captured in the wild, and the wild parrots living in San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill who were descended from pets that were released into the wild. There’s a brief focus on the founding of the Animal Switchboard by a mother and daughter named Grace and Virginia Handley. The chapter closes with a discussion on the increasing popularity of vegetarianism in the United States since the trend began in the 1970’s.

Music Mentioned in This Book

“Boogie Fever” by The Sylvers

“Dancing Queen” by Abba

Roto-Rooter advertising jingle

Movies, Books, and Television Shows Mentioned in This Book:

Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé
The Incredible Journey by Shiela Burnford
The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Real-Life People Mentioned in This Book:

Grace and Virginia Handley
Dr. Irene Pepperberg

News and Other Stuff From the Era Mentioned in This Book:

The Animal Switchboard
The Humane Society
Macramé

My Own Impressions Based on My Own Experience With the 1970’s:

I chuckled when the bird kept on singing the Roto-Rooter advertising jingle because I remember that one really well when I was growing up. Roto-Rooter advertised heavily on both the radio and daytime television so I learned that jingle really well. These days it seems like the Roto-Rooter ads have been replaced by the ones for Len the Plumber (at least that’s the case in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area). I not only hear that ad jingle (“The only way to get a plumber today. Just call Len the Plumber.”), I also see billboard signs and ads on the sides of the Metrobuses in the Washington, DC area.

The scene at the beginning of the book where Julie is thrilled that “Dancing Queen” is playing on the radio while she’s riding in her father’s car definitely brought back memories for me. That song was so heavily played on the radio back in the 1970’s that it began to drive me crazy after a while. I was so relieved when that song finally sank below the charts because I was so tired of that song.

I also have memories when I read about the possibility of Lucy being an escape artist who managed to find a way to get out of her own cage. I had a pet hedgehog named Spike, who passed away last year. I read in a book that hedgehogs are notorious escape artists and I got a taste of that once when it came time for the weekly cage cleaning. Whenever the weather was warm, I would put Spike outdoors in a small pets playpen (which was a fenced-in enclosure for animals ranging from guinea pigs to rabbits). A day or so before I put Spike in the playpen, I had to temporarily dismantle it so I could mow the backyard then I put it back up. I had apparently didn’t secure the pegs tight enough because when I went back outside to retrieve Spike after I finished with cleaning his cage, I found that he was gone. Luckily for me, I found him just a couple of feet away sniffing among the grass and fallen leaves so I was able to quickly recapture him.

Two months after that escape attempt, I found Spike dead in his cage. He lived with me for a year and a half.

I laughed at the scenes where Aunt Maia tried to cook vegetarian meals for Julie and her father with mixed results. I’ve tried recipes (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian) that have gone wrong on me in the past. I especially remembered the time when I attempted this Weight Watchers recipe where I had to cook then chop an eggplant then puree it in a blender while I mixed in nutmeg. It was supposed to be a non-tomato sauce for pasta. Except my then-husband and I found it to be so bland that we ended up going to the nearby pizza parlor for dinner. (Needless to say, I never tried that recipe again. LOL!)

As for Lucy, I remember seeing a talking parrot in a shop when I was growing up and my family was on vacation. (It was probably in Ocean City, Maryland since we took a lot of trips there when I was growing up.) The sign on the cage said something like “Hello, I Can Talk!” So I said “Hello” to the parrot a couple of times and the parrot responded with “Hello, Popeye.” Except the parrot said it in a slow drawn-out fashion so it sounded like “Hel—-Lo——Pop——eye” and he kept on repeating that phrase very slowly as he crawled around in his cage. I remember the parrot was a really pretty red color. The bird wasn’t for sale. In fact, I don’t think we were in a pet store. I think we were in one of the many souvenir shops in Ocean City and the owner only had the parrot in his store as a way of attracting potential customers to the store.

I had a parakeet as a teenager named Baby but she never learned to talk. I remember she had this tendency to bite, especially whenever I had to clean her cage and she wanted to attack my hand while I was replacing her food and water. (Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!) I had to get a spoon, use one hand to put the spoon in the cage so Baby would attack it and divert her attention while I used the other hand to put her food and water in her cage so I wouldn’t get bitten.

Like I wrote earlier, Lost in the City is the last of the Julie Mysteries that have been published. I have to admit that the Julie Mysteries are pretty solid in terms of story. Even though I was very nitpicking regarding the last book, The Silver Guitar, it was because the Julie books are supposed to be historical novels and the writer of that book decided to make up a fake oil spill in 1977 San Francisco that never happened while giving short shrift to Julie’s school’s sports program had gone through budget cuts (which actually happened in real life and that is what prompted music promoter Bill Graham to create his fundraising SNACK concert that included appearances by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez). But the mystery of who stole that silver guitar (which was once owned by a deceased rock star) and replaced it with a lookalike fake made up for dealing with frequent graphic descriptions of oil-soaked seabirds. Even at its worst, The Silver Guitar is still way better than the worst books in the original Central Series. (I’m looking at you, Happy New Year, Julie and Julie’s Journey.)

I think the best of the Julie Mysteries is The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter because it provided such a fascinating history lesson on the legacy of the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. As I was reading it I kept on thinking that American Girl could easily create a historical character doll who would be a Chinese girl immigrating to the U.S. during the years affected by that law and it could write in more detail about what it was like for her to be detained on Angel Island for several weeks while waiting to see whether she could enter the U.S. or not. What’s more, The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter provided lots of twists and turns as Julie and Ivy wonder if any adults were following them while they were investigating this mystery.

Where to Buy Lost in the City:

Amazon
American Girl

Barnes & Noble

Powell’s Books

The American Girl Julie Albright Books List

The Original Central Series:

Meet Julie
Julie Tells Her Story
Happy New Year, Julie
Julie and the Eagles
Julie’s Journey
Changes for Julie

The Best Friend Book

Good Luck, Ivy

The Julie Mysteries

The Tangled Web
The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter
The Silver Guitar
Lost in the City

The BeForever Books:

The Big Break: A Julie Classic Volume 1—A compilation of the first three Julie Albright Central Series books (Meet Julie, Julie Tells Her Story, and Happy New Year, Julie).

Soaring High: A Julie Classic Volume 2—A compilation of the last three Julie Albright Central Series books (Julie and the Eagles, Julie’s Journey, and Changes for Julie).

A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey with Julie

This post is about the third and final day of Intervention Con 2014 that took place in Rockville. For my posts on the previous two days, see:

Intervention Con, Day 1

Intervention Con, Day 2

I’ve been to enough of these types of conventions in the past (such as Otakon, Katsucon, and Anime USA) to know that the third day tends to be pretty truncated because everyone is focused on packing up and checking out of their hotel rooms so they can catch the next flight out of town. The entire convention tends to shut down between 2-4 p.m. I usually don’t go to the last day of a con unless there’s a topic that I’m really interested in.

I decided to go on the last day because there were two topics that I was interested in. One was an 11 a.m. discussion on “Should I Care About Social Media?” and the other was a 1 p.m. panel with the intriguing title of “Blogging For Fun and Profit.” I also decided to leave behind the crochet project that I was currently working on because the con was going to be over by 4 and I wasn’t going to stay very long.

However I was out late last night at the con so I had a hard time getting going the following morning. I ended up missing the social media panel but I made every effort to arrive early enough that I could make it to the blogging panel. I arrived at the Hilton Hotel and I leisurely walked along the hallway. Near the area of the hotel where Intervention Con was held, I saw that one of the conference rooms was rented by a church known as the House of Divine Glory. I saw that the doors were opened and I noticed that this church service was held in a room that had a funky psychedelic Volkswagen Bus. Seriously!

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

I arrived at the front tables where I found this flyer announcing some last-minute changes regarding the blogging panel. The organizers flipped the times of the charity auction and the blogging panel without any prior notices whatsoever. I didn’t know about the time changes until after I arrived. What was worse was that the blogging panel now started earlier so I had suddenly gone from arriving early so I can make it to the panel with enough time to spare to being a half-an-hour late to the panel. To say that I found it annoying was a total understatement!

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

So I sprinted to the panel only to find that I had missed half of it. I still found it informative even though I would’ve loved to have been there for the whole thing. The one thing I found fascinating is the issue of whether a blog should allow comments or not. Apparently, according to those panelists, there have been a trend of getting away of allowing comments because of the problems with the trolls and spammers. The panelists made the point that the newspapers tend to limit which letters to the editor ultimately makes it to publication. So the rationale was why allow anyone to comment in your personal blog if it’s going to allow trolls to hurl insults at you.

That panel brought back memories of when I had a previous blog that attracted the attention of a few trolls (which I could easily devote a separate post about) who left nasty comments and I also had the occasional comment spammer hawking things like diet pills that had absolutely nothing to do with the topic of the post I wrote. I ended up pulling the plug on that blog by deleting it in late 2008 because I grew tired of the trolls and I was scheduled to undergo a hip replacement and I knew that I was going to have a long recuperation and I really didn’t want to deal with abusive trolls. When I started this blog, I decided to moderate all comments so I could approve which ones could be posted. (I’m also grateful that WordPress.com uses Akismet which also weeds out comment spam. I’ve read a few of these comment spams a few times but I generally agree with those being completely blocked.) I also tend to close comments after a post has been online for about a month or so in order to make my moderating duties easier.

Anyway, getting back to Intervention Con, after the panel ended, there was an announcement that a special charity auction was going to be held in the same room where the proceeds would benefit the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). I originally had no intention of sticking around because I really couldn’t afford to bid on anything but then I learned that the same guy who had been cosplaying as Jesus throughout the entire weekend was going to be the emcee for the auction. I thought it would be worth it to stick around just for that. Here were some of the items that were available for the auction.

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

I had a feeling that having Jesus Christ emcee the auction would be ludicrously hilarious and I definitely was not disappointed.

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

The only sad part was that the auction was sparsely attended and there were quite a few items that went unsold. Even Jesus said that he’s going to tell the management that they should schedule the auction for a Saturday next year since there tends to be more people there. There’s a part of me who wondered whether the tanked economy had an affect as well. I know I’ve had a harder time selling my arts and crafts because of the economy and I came to that conclusion after encountering so many people at street craft shows who have told me “I’d love to buy something from you but money is tight because I’ve been laid off (or my spouse/parent/partner has been laid off) or my job is in jeopardy.”

During the auction my eyes glanced over to a wall in the room and I saw something I recognized from the previous night. I remembered that the same room was the one where the Drink and Draw Artist Jam took place. I made a quick drawing of an anthro female dog, took a photo of it, then left the con because I was very tired. I was surprised that the drawing still remained on the wall ledge where I had left it.

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

I took the fact that my drawing was still there as a sign of some kind (as to what kind of sign, I haven’t figured it out yet) and I decided to take the drawing. I ultimately brought it back home with me.

I took one last look at the Dealer’s Room but I found that half of the tables were empty and there were very few shoppers.

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

The Tau Radio Independent Broadcasting continued with their live broadcast from Intervention Con.

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

I took one last shot of Intervention Con before I decided to head home.

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Lately I’ve been saving on gas by making a point of combining trips as much as possible. I decided to check out Micro Center because the store is located just a block or so from the Hilton Hotel. I ended up not buying anything but I took a few shots of some of the cool statues that came from the 3D printers that the store sells.

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

The last photo in this post is of this really cool Mr. Potato Head that was based on Doctor Who.

Intervention Con, Day 3, August 24, 2014

By the way, check out this Washington Post story about Intervention Con.

Late last night I posted online my experiences with the first day of Intervention Con. This post is about my second day, which not only had more people attend (compared to the previous day) but there were more things for me to do.

The weather outside that day was nothing but non-stop rain, which made me glad that I was at an indoor convention.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Yesterday I started this crochet project during some downtime because I had thought about going to the Early Bird Stitch-n-Bitch that was scheduled for 9 a.m. on the second day. Except I didn’t make it because I overslept a little bit. I still brought my crochet project with me and I worked on it some more during downtimes. Of course I took some more photos, such as the next one of one of the official Intervention Con camera operators with his high-end equipment.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

The major bummer about oversleeping is that I not only missed the Early-Bird Stitch-n-Bitch but I also missed half of the documentary Plastic Galaxy, which is a fascinating look at the Star Wars toys, the original Kenner employees responsible for creating them, and the collectors. I’m sorry that I missed the first half and I was too broke to buy the DVD that was on sale in the Dealers Room. I’ll try to catch it online at some point.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

There were a few more cosplayers walking around but it seemed like the vast majority just wore casual clothes.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

And here’s a rare online picture of me with a Doctor Who cosplayer that someone else volunteered to take with my smartphone camera.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

At one point I ate the lunch that I brought with me then I attended a session on “Manga Studio 5: An Intro”. The leader of that panel was one of the leaders of the previous night’s panel on “Comics Rehab: Overcoming Creative Depression” that I attended and she promoted this one towards the end of the previous one. I decided to check it out because my potential future is in a constant state of flux and I wanted to know what software is out there. (I have a friend who’s practically an open source evangelist who frequently promotes the idea that open source applications are the solution to almost everything. I just wanted other opinions so I can think about things, which was why I attended the workshop.) Manga Studio 5 looks like a very interesting program even if it’s not open source. (The retail price is $50 but one can find that application online for far less.)

I stayed in the same room after that panel ended because I was interested in the panel following it which was titled “The ToonSeum and Creating a Museum Celebrating Your Passion!” It was given by an artist named Joe Was who was the original founder of the ToonSeum, which is a museum dedicated to cartoons and comic books in Pittsburgh. I found his talk totally fascinating as he gave details about the challenges of trying to find space for such a museum and getting the funding in order to keep it in operation. I found his talk so interesting that I would definitely put the ToonSeum on my personal itinerary if I ever find myself in the Pittsburgh area again. (Come to think of it, I’ve been through Pittsburgh—usually when I was traveling to Ohio—but I’ve never actually stopped in that city. I need to rectify that one day.)

Joe Was mentioned that his young daughter had her own table in the Artist’s Alley. I came across her table later, which had this amusing sign.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

The sign convinced me enough to shell out $2 for one of her small drawings. I have to say that she has a lot of potential. :-)

I spent time in the Dealers Room perusing the various items on sale.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Here’s another shot of one of the two rooms that had video games available to play. I focused more on the vintage arcade games from the 1970’s and 1980’s (such as Super Mario Bros., Tron, and Wizard of Wor) than on the later console games.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Walt’s Cards & Board Gaming Room, named after one of the sponsors who provided the games for this room, was full of games and players.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

I had wanted to attend a panel on “Living the Dream: Planning a Sustainable Career.” I walked into an empty room that I thought that the panel was being held in. To pass time, I took out my crocheting and started to work on my latest project. Some guys came in and they started to talk about the joys and struggles of making a web series called Shotgun Mythos. It sounded really interesting even though it didn’t sound like the panel I had planned on attending. It wasn’t until about a half an hour into the presentation that I looked at my schedule and realized that I had walked in the wrong room! It was a workshop on “The ABCs of Creating a Web Series/Shotgun Mythos.” It was still an interesting workshop even though I had never heard of this web series before. (I should at least check out an episode online sometime in the future.)

I decided to head into another panel that I was interested in and, this time, I made sure that I found the right location before entering the room. Kelsey Wailes gave a demonstration on how she creates her Doctor Whooo owls. I took a few photos during the presentation.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Here’s an interesting story about the below photo. During my weekend at Intervention Con I had uploaded a few select photos on both my Twitter and Instagram accounts. A few minutes later I got a notification from Instagram that the Official Instagram of Doctor Who on BBC America had hit the “Like” button. Seriously, my modest photo was noticed by someone at BBC America. That was so awesome that I approached Kelsey after the panel was over and I told her about this. She was so thrilled when she heard this that she had me forward that photo to her Instagram account with the indication that BBC America had liked that photo. I don’t know if anything will come of that attention from BBC America but it’s pretty cool.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

By the way, if you like her art, you can not only check her out on Instagram but also on Deviantart, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Etsy.

After the workshop was over I ate the dinner that I brought with me. I also saw the sign leading to this special party that was only for designated Enablers, who are the special attendees who paid a higher admission fee than the basic admission fee that I paid. (The Enabler passes started at $15 above the basic admission and there were different levels of Enabler where the more money you paid, the more goodies you get.) One day, when my fortunes improve, Ill seriously consider being at least a low-level Enabler and I’ll be able to attend parties like the one indicated by the sign in the photo below.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

The Internet radio station Tau Radio Independent Broadcasting did live broadcasts from Intervention Con the entire weekend.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

I hung around the con while killing time alternating between playing video games and working on my latest crochet project. I patiently waited until the 8 p.m. magic hour arrived. There were subtle hints of what was happening on the second day of the con such as what I found at the water fountain below.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con was hosting the premiere of the first episode of the new season of Doctor Who.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

I could’ve watched this same episode on my own TV at home but there’s something special about seeing the show in a large room with a bunch of other like-minded individuals.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

There were also people who even arrived totally dressed up for the occasion, which I would not have experienced had I sat home watching television alone. (Besides, given my current situation, I have plenty of other opportunities to watch TV at home alone so I didn’t mind seeing Doctor Who at Intervention Con.)

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

After the episode ended, there was supposed to be a general party but most of the people left immediately. I hung around because there was one last event I was curious about. It was called “Club 242 Presents Drink and Draw Artist Jam” and I was curious about it even though I left my drawing pad and pencils at home. (I didn’t realize it until after I arrived at the hotel.) But it was okay because the organizers provided paper and pens for those who didn’t bring their own. There was a lot of serious drawing going on while dance music played.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

There were a few people who opted to dance instead of drawing.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

I even shot a short video of the dancing mainly because someone was playing this techno dance music cover of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” that I only recognized because of the lyrics. The music part sounded pretty different from Madonna’s original version.

There was a bar that, for a fee, served booze so people could drink and draw. I didn’t drink any alcohol mainly because I had a half-an-hour commute in front of me but I drew some anthro female dog. (I was kind of influenced by these really cute Pinkie Cooper anthro dog fashion dolls that I saw on sale at Target. I ended up buying a couple for myself because they were so cute. I should write a separate blog post about these dolls at some point since I’ve had them for a while.) The biggest challenge was that it was getting late at night and I was pretty tired after a full day of being at Intervention Con. I drew a really quick sketch until I felt too tired to attempt another drawing.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

I decided to prop the drawing on one of the decorative ledges on the walls of the room where the party took place. I took a quick photo from that horizontal perspective but I was in a really tired mood and I didn’t think that it was among my better efforts so I decided to leave it on the ledge and left for home.

Intervention Con, Day 2, August 23, 2014

Last year I went to my first ever Intervention Con in Rockville. I was only able to afford one day because, having attended both Brony Con and Otakon, I was too low on funds to afford the entire weekend. I really enjoyed myself at that con because it was relatively small and intimate and I managed to meet all kinds of interesting people and attend some really cool panels and workshops.

This year I skipped Otakon (I basically contented myself with taking pictures of Otakon cosplayers outside the convention) so I could afford to attend a full weekend of Intervention Con. (Although I still had to commute to and from the Hilton—where Intervention Con was held—because money is still too tight for me to stay in the hotel. I also had to pack my own meals and drinks for the same reason. I was able to get this deal at the Hilton front desk where I could get a weekend parking pass—yes this particular Hilton Hotel charges for parking in its garage—for $18. I took it because the breakdown would be $6 per day, which is a relative bargain compared to the usual $15 per day on the weekday.) Because of the convention’s relatively intimate size, I felt comfortable enough with getting a full weekend pass since I knew I would be doing less waking than if it was held in a large facility like either of the convention centers in Baltimore and DC.

The first of the events started at 2 p.m. Friday afternoon but I didn’t arrive until later because the panels I was interested in were held later. I managed to arrive a little bit early so I could pick up my pass, which is pictured below.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I was also given my choice of these plastic balls and I picked the blue one. I never figured out the significance of these balls.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The setup at Intervention Con was pretty much the same as last year so I quickly remembered where everything was located.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I spent some of my free time playing video games, many of which were classic late 1970’s-early 1980’s video games that were put on Free Play the entire weekend.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I also spent some browsing the Dealer’s Room but I couldn’t afford to do much shopping. I managed to take this panoramic shot of the room.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The next two photos are of the Intervention Con table which had a variety of extra things for people who paid a little extra money in order to gain “Enabler” status. Among the goodies given to such generous people were hand-crocheted amigurumis that resembled the Intervention Con’s owl mascot.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I came across some workers putting the finishing touches on erecting a life-sized model of the Tardis from Doctor Who.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

There were a few cosplayers at Intervention Con such as this woman in the photo below.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I also brought along my latest creative project with me to work on during some downtime. I was currently working on a crocheted piece. I had every ambition to attend the “Early Stitch and Bitch” that was scheduled for 9 a.m. the following morning and I wanted to start my crocheted project before attending this event.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The first workshop I attended was on “Designing Your First Book,” which I found pretty enlightening. (Every now and then I have fantasies of one day publishing my own e-book even though I haven’t thought of what I wanted to write about yet. LOL!) It started at 5 p.m. and ended at 6 so I ate the dinner that I brought with me.

At 7 p.m. I went to another panel that I was the most interested in attending, which was titled “Comics Rehab: Overcoming Creative Depression.” It focused on the challenges of retaining your creativity in the challenges of real life (such as depression). That workshop really resonated with me because there are times when I’ve had a hard time getting going on anything because I was dealing with the emotional fallout from both my hip surgery in September, 2011 followed by my husband’s walkout just three months later (and three days after Christmas) followed by revelations that he left me for a friend who also has severe mental health issues. I got some helpful tips (the most important one was to go out and be with friends if depression is too overwhelming—don’t stay home alone). Near the end of that panel, a man who cosplayed as Jesus sat down next to me.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The reason why Jesus arrived was because he was involved in the next panel that was taking place in the same room. I stuck around in that room where I was treated to a spectacle that was titled “Cosplay Candidate: The Political Game.” Basically four cosplayers were asked questions about politics and they gave pretty hilarious answers while they were sticking in character to the character that they were portraying. One of the participants, standing next to Jesus in the next photo, was known as King Drunk for obvious reasons.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

So I sat in on this panel for a little while until I grew pretty tired around 8:30 p.m. and I decided to call it a day and drive home.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

As I was walking towards the parking garage, I saw this guy playing the guitar near the Tardis.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

So it was one day of Intervention Con down and two more days to go.

In the past I’ve expressed my disappointment with President Barack Obama where he presented himself as a modern-day FDR during his original 2008 campaign and we got someone who hasn’t done much to attack the lingering effects of the 2008 economic meltdown and last year I wrote that I was through with supporting him and his administration. This morning I came across this interview on Salon.com that I want to share here. Thomas Frank, who wrote the book What’s the Matter With Kansas?, interviews Cornel West and West pretty much articulates everything that I find wrong with the Obama Administration and why the possibility of another Hillary Clinton for President campaign in 2016 has me going “Meh!” The headline for this article says it all: Cornel West: “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency”.

On a similar note, I have a friend who writes a political blog whose words I find very insightful. I originally met her through an online political discussion forum and my then-husband and I have met her in person twice. She’s an amazing talent at writing and I think she should be a political columnist at a major newspaper except I think that none of the major newspapers have much balls these days. Otherwise, why would The Washington Post continue to keep George Will on as one of its columnists even though he has written a number of dumb things in recent years like the recent one where he called being raped on a college campus a “coveted status.”

I find her latest post on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri to be spot-on and the rest of her blog is also similarly insightful as well. Check out Susan the Bruce.

A week ago I needed to buy something at the Smile Herbal Shop in College Park and, feeling inspired and pumped by my recent trip to my original hometown of Glen Burnie, Maryland, I decided to do something similar to the northern College Park area where the store is located and take a few photos.

I spent my senior year at the University of Maryland at College Park living in off-campus housing in the northern area of College Park. While there have been tense relations between the residents of College Park and the students at the university, I found that the closer you live to the school, the more likely you are to encounter things like some drunk frat guy urinating on your front lawn (which was actually an issue during my student years). The northern area I lived in was one mile away from the university and it was literally like another world compared to the areas closer to the university. The area I was in was relatively quiet and most of the students who rented homes in the area tended to be more low-key. The majority of the homes are single-family homes and it is a lovely neighborhood, as these photos show.

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The next photo shows the house that I lived it. It is a nice Victorian-style home that I lived with housemates (who were either students or who worked low-paying jobs nearby). My boyfriend, who later became my ex-husband, lived in nearby Berwin Heights and it was just a 15 minute walk between our homes. The house had a backyard and a shed (which is the smaller structure you see in the photo). The house continued to be a group home for students for many years after I moved until the landlord decided to sell this house. It is now a private residence that’s occupied by a family. When I lived there the house was painted a nice yellow-gold color and it remained the same color until after it was sold and the new owners decided to paint it grey. Personally I preferred the original color.

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When I lived in this house and I needed to get to class, I used to take this path that ran right by the parking lot of the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church and it led into the woods. It was a nice scenic alternative to walking on the sidewalk along Route 1. A few years ago someone paved the path so it’s easier for people to walk, jog, and ride bikes.

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The entrance to the path has a nice small landscaped garden.

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Holy Redeemer Catholic Church has this nice bronze statue commemorating Elizabeth Ann Seton, who established the first Catholic school in Emmitsburg, Maryland and she became the first American to become canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

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When I lived in this neighborhood the building in the picture below was this convenience store that was operated by an elderly woman. I bought plenty of snacks and sodas from this store, which closed about a year or two after I graduated and moved away. Since then other businesses have come and gone (I think the most recent business was a nail salon or something like that) and it remained empty when I took this photo.

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I lived near the commercial section of northern College Park, which is located off of Route 1 on Berwyn Road. A lot of businesses have come and gone over the years. The Smile Herbal Shop is the only store from my college days that still remains in business.

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The next two photos show the big corner space that, in the past, has housed a women’s clothing store and a yoga studio. It’s currently a martial arts studio.

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The Fishnet restaurant in the next photo was once the location of a store called It’s a Beautiful Day, which flourished during my college years. My housemates used to nickname it “B-Day” and it was a store that sold vitamins, herbal supplements, organic food, a variety of New Age paraphernalia like crystals an incense, and there was even a small vegan restaurant in the back of the store that had a limited menu. B-Day went out of business years ago and it was replaced by a local mom-and-pop coffee shop that was in business for a while until that closed up as well. A seafood restaurant called Fishnet occupies the space now and I’ve heard a few good reviews about the place online although I haven’t eaten there yet. (I took this photo on a Sunday when the restaurant is usually closed.)

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The house in the next photo is the Smile Herbal Shop. Like I wrote earlier, this place is the only business from my college days that’s still going strong. It’s a store that sells herbs in a variety of forms including tablets, dried leaves (for making teas), and liquid tinctures. The store also sells many of its products online.

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I’ve always loved this sign, especially the slogan that’s under the logo: “If you can’t stop, smile as you go by.”

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There’s also a lovely fountain the the front that has lily pads and goldfish swimming around.

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From spring-fall the Smile Herbal Shop also serves as a nursery selling herbs that one can purchase and plant outside.

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The next photo shows this recycled shopping bag that the Smile Herbal Shop currently has on sale with this charming slogan.

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I really loved living in this neighborhood. Even though I didn’t have a car in college, everything was within convenient walking distance so I didn’t mind not having a car. The neighborhood had a lot of Victorian-style homes that provided lots of eye candy walking around. The house in the photo below is one such example of the homes in this neighborhood yet it was also a standout for one reason.

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The driveway leading to that house is flanked by a stone post that has a historical style marker embedded in it.

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Here is what the marker said.

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Over a week ago I had quite a day. My support group for people who are separated or divorced held a fundraising bag bingo at a local Elks Lodge located in Severn near my original hometown of Glen Burnie. Since I had wanted to visit my two art pieces that are on display in the Station North Arts Cafe as part of the Station North Art District Salon Show and that cafe is only opened until 3 p.m. most days and Glen Burnie is located just south of Baltimore, I decided to make a long day out of being in the Baltimore area.

First, I traveled to Baltimore where I arrived in the area just an hour before the cafe closed for the day. The weather was warm with low humidity that day and it was incredibly sunny and beautiful. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the cloudy blue sky after I arrived in the area.

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I walked past the Chicken Box where I saw this chalk window display showing the map of the ongoing Station North Arts District Salon Show.

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I also took a photo of one of the many murals on display in the Station North Arts District.

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I finally arrived at the Station North Arts Cafe. As I was taking the photo below, a man approached me, introduced himself as being the cafe’s owner, and invited me into his establishment while saying that his place is the best restaurant in Baltimore.

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I walked inside and looked around at all the art on the walls until I finally found my two pieces located outside the door leading to the next room where the kitchen, counter, and cash register were located.

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Here are my two pieces as they are currently on display at the Station North Arts Cafe. (You can click here for brighter and clearer versions of the pieces.)

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The cafe has a very funky decor that I found charming, such as the area behind the counter.

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I ordered my lunch then I went to the bathroom. I found the decor in the bathroom was so incredibly cool that I couldn’t resist photographing it.

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The rest of the cafe had funky decorative touches everywhere that I found very charming.

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I ordered the All-American Grilled Cheese & Tomato while paying a little extra for a couple of strips of smoked bacon with a bag of Utz potato chips and a Diet Pepsi. I found my lunch to be very tasty. The rest of the menu looks very interesting and I’d love to try the other items but I would definitely have to plan any future trips to that cafe since the place is only opened until 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

After I finished eating my late lunch, I decided to travel south so I could check out the place where I grew up from ages 5-19. I took Route 2 out of Baltimore and I drove through Brooklyn. I remember when I was a teenager, my family used to go out to a family-owned seafood restaurant in Brooklyn called Gunning’s Crab House on special occasions. The place looked run-down on the outside but when you entered through the doors you’d see brightly-painted rooms with wooden furniture and wall panelings. The food was excellent and I still have memories of eating that restaurant’s signature crab fluff dish. Sadly Gunning’s went out of business years ago. Otherwise, I would’ve planned on just ordering a drink at the Station North Arts Cafe and saving my appetite for Gunning’s. :-(

As I continued to drive, I decided to pull into this local Roses lot. I’m well familiar with Roses because there is a Roses in Ocean City and I remember when I used to go on vacation with my then-husband and sister-in-law, my sister-in-law used to insist on spending some time shopping at Roses because she’s pretty hooked on shopping for items at the cheapest prices. (She’s been known to shop in at least four or more stores if she’s looking for a certain item because she wants to but it at the cheapest price.) I haven’t been to Ocean City since 2011 (just five months before my husband abruptly walked out on me) so I’d thought it would be fun to visit the Roses in Brooklyn just for old time’s sake.

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Roses is a discount store that’s similar to Big Lots in that it sells consumer items at cut-rate prices. There are basically two kinds of items sold at Roses. One is overstocked items, such as these toys based on that controversial reality show, Duck Dynasty.

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The other kind of items that Roses sells are ones that are cheap Chinese-made knock-offs of more well-known products, such as these $5 articulated 1/6 scale big-eyed dolls available in a variety of funky skin colors that remind me of Mattel’s Monster High dolls.

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As I parked in the Roses parking lot, I saw these two guys walking along Route 2 and they definitely caught my attention. One was a person that I initially thought was a topless woman until I realized that it was really an overweight man with long blonde hair and man-boobs. The other person had long blonde hair and was wearing a cowboy hat and a western-style shirt. I also wasn’t sure if the person was really a woman or a cross-dressing cowgirl. This cowgirl definitely stood out on the streets of Brooklyn. The cowgirl also shook her hips as she and her friend walked past Roses. I tried to get a picture of these unusually looking pair but they walked too fast for my camera and I didn’t feel like running down the street to catch up with them.

A day later or so after my trip, I was still on a mental high from my recent trip to the Baltimore area, I was checking out a few YouTube videos about my hometown of Glen Burnie when I found a video featuring that cowgirl I saw walking past Roses in Brooklyn.

It was through YouTube that I found out that the cowgirl I saw walking past Roses in Brooklyn was none other than Dale Crites, also known as Britney Girl Dale. Damn, I was close to a local celebrity who once tried out for America’s Got Talent and I didn’t realize it until later. Man, I now regret not running down the street so I could get a photo of Britney Girl Dale and Dale’s friend.

After my brief visit to Roses, I continued traveling south along Route 2 until I hit the northernmost border of Glen Burnie and Route 2 becomes known as Ritchie Highway. Here are a few things about my life. I was born in Baltimore and I lived there with my family for the first few years of my life. When I was five my family moved to Glen Burnie because my parents—especially my mother—had an ambition of living in the suburbs and the housing in Glen Burnie was cheap compared to other places they checked out.

The next photo shows the former location of a chain of chicken restaurants known as English’s Fried Chicken. That place used to be among my favorite restaurants growing up. Sadly the Glen Burnie location closed soon after I left for college but there are still a few English’s Fried Chicken places left on the Eastern Shore, especially in Ocean City. English’s former Glen Burnie location is now occupied by another chicken place known as Hip Hop Chicken. (No, I haven’t tried eating there. I was still full from that lunch I ate at the Station North Arts Cafe.)

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Across the street from the shopping center where Hip Hop Chicken is located is the Motor Vehicles Administration (MVA). This was the building where I took my driver’s test when I was 16. I flunked the first time but I practiced my driving some more and I managed to get my driver’s license on the second try. Recently I saw the MVA’s Glen Burnie location mentioned on Roadside America’s site for one reason.

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There is a giant Crash Test Dummy statue located in the front of the building. I don’t recall seeing this statue when I was growing up. I think someone installed it after I permanently moved away from Glen Burnie. I have to admit that it’s impressive looking.

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Glen Burnie consists of two major highways that run parallel to each other—Ritchie Highway and Crain Highway. Both are full of car dealerships, shopping centers, shopping malls, and all kinds of fast food outlets. The next photo shows the dashboard view of Ritchie Highway.

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The next three photos show why Glen Burnie has been dubbed “The Car Capital of Maryland.” There are all kinds of auto dealerships that are located throughout Ritchie Highway.

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There are so many auto dealerships that are located next to each other that some of them have to resort to attention-getting gimmicks, such as this Ford dealership’s giant inflatable fox.

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The next photo shows Crain Highway, which runs through downtown Glen Burnie. Yes, the next photo shows the main downtown hub of Glen Burnie. Now you know why Glen Burnie isn’t exactly a tourist destination.

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Here’s further south along Crain Highway. Now you know why Glen Burnie is synonymous with the term “suburban sprawl.”

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I decided to enter one of my favorite shopping malls from my teen years. When I was growing up, it was known as Glen Burnie Mall. Nowadays it’s known by the more pretentious-sounding The Centre at Glen Burnie.

photo27In my time the mall had two large anchors—Toys R Us and Montgomery Ward—with a bunch of smaller stores that I loved. My favorites were the Record Bar, where I bought plenty of albums with my allowance money, and Walden Books, where I loved to check out the books and magazines on sale there. There were also trendy clothing stores like Merry-Go-Round and Chess King as well as this great video arcade where I spent plenty of quarters playing the classic video games of the era like Space Invaders and Pac-Man.

Montgomery Ward went out of business years ago but I noticed a Target in its place. I saw that Toys R Us was still there in its original place but it has been joined by an h.h. gregg. (It looked like the mall went through an expansion on one side in order to accommodate h.h. gregg’s arrival.)

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I decided to enter the mall for old time’s sake just to see what’s still there. I saw that the old video arcade is long gone. The closest thing to an arcade video game that’s in the mall is this claw machine in the photo below, which is giving away Starbucks plastic cups with a gift card inside. (Judging from the sign, it looks like you have to spend the quarters and win one of the cups in order to learn what kind of gift cards are being given away.)

 

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There’s a nice glass case display devoted to the Baltimore sports teams (Orioles and Ravens).

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I saw that Lane Bryant’s was still there and the jewelry kiosks were also there in the center of the mall but the vast majority of stores I saw in that mall were ones that came along after I left Glen Burnie.

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But most of the mall was empty with few shoppers.

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There was a children’s play area that looked relatively new. (I don’t recall a play area like that when I was growing up.) I only saw one young girl in the play area when I was there but she left with her mother around the time that I walked by there.

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photo36There were also a few stores there that were running Going Out of Business sales, which means that this mall will become even more empty in a few weeks.

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I felt so sad at seeing my once-favorite shopping mall turning into a dying shopping mall that I decided to briefly stop in Toys R Us for a brief pick-me-up. That store is one of the few original stores that’s still in the mall and it’s still standing even though other Toys R Us stores have been closed in recent years. (There were once three Toys R Us stores near my current home and they all eventually closed. These days if I have to go to Toys R Us for any reason, I have to drive at least a half-an-hour.)

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Toys R Us sells the usual classic toys like Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars along with some technologically advanced stuff, such as this tablet for kids that was on sale the day I was at that store.

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Toys R Us had a really cute Dumbo ride that’s patiently waiting for a child willing to ride his back.

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I left that mall feeling sad that my one-time favorite mall has become one of those malls that get documented on sites like DeadMalls.com. At the fork that splits Crain Highway off from Ritchie Highway, I decided to drive down Crain. I kept on driving south until I ran into another place I recognized from my past—The Doll Motel.

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The Doll Motel has long been a landmark in the southern part of Glen Burnie and this place looks exactly the same as I remembered it. Even the trimmed bushes and the decorations around the place are exactly the same.

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The Doll Motel also played a big part in my wedding. My fiance and I decided to hold our wedding in the backyard of my parents’ home because we were into the idea of a spring garden wedding but we were also on a tight budget. We decided to hold our wedding on the first Saturday in June because we bought into the tradition of holding a June wedding and we also decided on a Saturday because my fiance invited his friends and relatives who were literally scattered all over the United States (in contrast, most of my friends and relatives lived in Maryland) and many of them preferred Saturday because they could fly in on Friday then leave on Sunday so they could return to their jobs on Monday. We encouraged our out-of-town wedding guests to stay at the Red Roof Inn that was located near BWI Airport (which is located near Glen Burnie—I still remember when the planes used to fly over our neighborhood flying to and from that airport). But there was a problem: my fiance’s Orthodox Jewish step-mother and his father, who converted to the Orthodox Jewish faith so he could marry his second wife. His father said that our Saturday wedding was the Sabbath and he asked us if we could hold the wedding on a Sunday instead but my husband told him that we were having guests flying as far away as California and we had to schedule our wedding around their work schedules so they could attend. (In contrast, my husband’s father and step-mother lived—and still continue to live—in New York City and they had recently became self-employed so they had more flexible work schedules.)

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Staying at the Red Roof Inn by the airport was out of the question since Orthodox Jews are prohibited from driving on the Sabbath (among other prohibitions). We suggested that they stay with my parents since the wedding was going to be held in their backyard (and they were even willing to host them in their home) but they turned that idea down. We ultimately arranged to have them stay at The Doll Motel so they could make the long 1.5 mile walk along the very busy Crain Highway to my parents’ home to attend our wedding. We arranged to hold the wedding late enough in the afternoon so it would be past sunset by the time they were ready to return to their motel room and they could catch a ride from another wedding guest. My ex-husband’s father and step-mother never talked about their experiences with The Doll Motel so I have no idea if they liked the place or not.

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After I finished taking the above photo of the house that serves as The Doll Motel’s office, I decided to keep driving south on Crain Highway. I decided to pull into the parking lot of another Glen Burnie business that still exists long after I moved away.

Crabtowne USA was the nearest seafood restaurant nearest to our home when I was a young child. (In later years there was another seafood place that opened ever closer to our neighborhood and there have been other nearby seafood restaurants that have opened since I moved away.) It also once had a reputation for attracting a rough redneck crowd and fights used to break out every now and then (especially on Friday and Saturday nights). I remember my parents decided to eat there on a rare date night out as a couple but they never went back. For years my parents would occasionally make a reference to Crabtowne USA as the place they vowed they would never go back to because they were pretty unnerved by the fellow diners they saw during the one time they ate there.

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I had originally decided to just take a couple of photos of the exterior of Crabtowne USA for old time’s sake then move on.

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But as I got closer to the sign so I could take a close-up shot of it, I noticed a smaller sign that’s underneath the large sign that promoted its Classic Arcade.

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As someone who spent plenty of quarters playing video games when I was in both high school and college, I became intrigued enough by the sign to actually go inside the building. Off to the side of the main dining area is this large room full of video games.

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There were a few rows of vintage 1970’s and 1980’s video games and most of them were ones that I played years ago.

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Not only did this room have the most famous of the video games (such as Pac-Man) but it also carried some of the less famous video games that were popular back in the day but, for some reason, they are relatively obscure. And, yes, that’s a foosball table in the above photograph.

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I felt like I had just stepped back in time and entered an old video arcade circa 1979-1985. Or I had entered one of the video arcades on Ocean City’s Boardwalk that have a row of the older vintage arcade machine.

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Over the years I purchased some of these old arcade games for both the Playstation 2 and the Nintendo Wii and I still play some of these titles from time to time. However, it’s still not quite the same as standing at a real arcade cabinet, dropping a quarter in the slot, and pushing a joystick or pressing a button.

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In addition, Crabtowne USA had a few video games that I’ve never seen released on any console, computer, or mobile platform, such as this Nintendo game in the above photo that’s based on the Popeye cartoons.

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If all that weren’t enough, along the walls there were vintage pinball games from the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s.

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There were all kinds of pinball games based on movies, TV shows, sporting events, and even one that was based on the rock band Kiss.

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The best thing about Crabtowne USA’s retro arcade is the fact that all the games still cost one quarter to play. That was totally sweet!

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For the young ones, there were also kiddie rides similar to what one used to frequently find at the shopping mall or inside some stores.

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There were also some kitschy decor in that room such as the sign below.

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The biggest irony about all this is that I don’t recall Crabtowne USA having anything like this when I was a teen. If I wanted to play pinball, I had to go to one of the many shopping malls and shopping centers that are located all along both Ritchie Highway and Crain Highway in Glen Burnie. (Back in the day it seemed like nearly every single shopping mall and shopping center had a video arcade.) I assumed that the restaurant had set up the video games and pinball machines after I moved out of the area because I previously known Crabtowne USA for the stories I’ve heard about drunken brawls from my parents and the other adults in my neighborhood. For all I know, the people who run the restaurant could’ve set up this vintage arcade in an effort to move away from its redneck reputation (as well as tap into the nostalgia market of people who grew up playing these vintage video games).

Like many video arcades there were change machines so people can get quarters to play the old games. I was in my total glory as I played a few video games and pinball machines. If I had more time, I would’ve ordered dinner and played these games until I ran out of extra cash. But I had to cut my time at Crabtowne USA short but I plan on returning one day in the future. (In a way, Crabtowne USA has given me a new reason to visit Glen Burnie on a more regular basis than once every two or three years. I haven’t visited the town as much since my widowed mother sold the original family home six years ago and moved to Odenton.)

After Crabtowne USA I decided to drive further south along Crain Highway where I decided to make a detour through my old neighborhood. The photo below is my childhood home. My parents bought this house and I moved there with my family from Baltimore when I was five. I lived there until I was 19 and I decided to transfer from Anne Arundel Community College (where I spent my freshman year) to the University of Maryland at College Park. After college graduation at 22 I moved back home for a year until I got married at 23. My husband and I were married in my parents’ backyard.

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This house is a two floor, three bedroom house with one and a half bathrooms and a garage. It was a nice house even though I hated the neighborhood it was located in due mainly to the kids who made my life hell (such as the ones I had the misfortune of running into when I was at Artscape in Baltimore last month) and the fact that if you were someone without a driver’s license (like I was as a kid), you had to rely on someone else willing to give you a ride because there were very few places within easy and safe walking distance.

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Both of my parents were avid gardeners. Over the years they purchased a lot of trees, plants, and bushes from Evergreen Gene’s (which I actually drove past during this trip but I didn’t stop there). After I got married and moved away my parents grew tired of mowing the lawn so they replaced the lawn in both the front and back yards with lots of trees, bushes, and shrubs. It’s nice to know that the current owners have kept the original plantings in the front yard even if some of the trees and bushes could use some pruning. I would’ve loved to have seen the back yard but it didn’t look like anyone was home at the time and I wasn’t about to break in to the back yard and risk arrest for the sake of a few photos and satisfying my curiosity.

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Here’s a dashboard shot of the street where my old childhood home is located. As you can see it’s very sprawling with lots of homes (which were all built in the 1960’s and 1970’s). My neighborhood was located so far south in Glen Burnie that it was literally up against the border with the next town, Severn. When my family first moved there were no playgrounds. In fact it would be a few years before we got a playground that was at least a 15-20 minute walk from my home. When I was growing up there were no stores within safe walking distance except for the local High’s convenience store. In later years there was a shopping center that was built that had a Giant on one end and a Fortune Cookie on the other but you literally had to dodge traffic on Crain Highway if you wanted to walk there. The nearest bus stop was an hour’s walk along Crain Highway. (A closer bus stop was finally set up closer to the entrance of my neighborhood long after I permanently left Glen Burnie. One would still have to walk at least 15 minutes since this bus stop isn’t in the neighborhood but it still beats the old days of having to walk an hour.) The nearest library was also an hour’s walk. You needed a car to go anywhere.

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Another dashboard view of the street where my childhood home is located. When my mother’s multiple sclerosis grew so bad that she could no longer drive, she was in the same boat as I was before I was able to legally drive except she couldn’t walk so she was totally housebound and relying on friends and family to bring food and do errands. Which was why she ultimately had to sell the house and move elsewhere.

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I didn’t stay long in my old neighborhood because it was getting close to the time for my support group’s bingo event and I wanted to arrive in time to buy myself some dinner before the bingo began. So I went from my neighborhood and drove a mile down the road until Crain Highway became known as New Cut Road and I was in Severn. Ironically the bingo venue is located near the church my family took me to when I was a child, St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church. I briefly drove around in the church parking lot while getting a glance at the rectory next door but I didn’t have much time to explore so I just drove on down Stevenson Road until I reached the Elks Lodge.

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The Elks Lodge has this small yet charming memorial garden.

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Here are a couple of wide shots of the room where the bingo event was held.

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It was a bag bingo that was a fundraiser for my support group, Changing Focus. The next photos showed some of the bags that were donated to this bingo and they included such designer names as Vera Wang and Coach. The bags looked lovely but I attended the bingo more for the chance at socializing with some of the people I’ve met through the support group. I had already decided that if I had won any of the bags I would’ve immediately sell it on eBay in order to raise some much-needed cash for myself.

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You can tell that the Elks Club holds bingo events on a regular basis because it has some pretty fancy bingo equipment.

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The decor of the Elks Club seemed like it was stuck in the 1970’s yet I found it quite cozy and charming.

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I ate dinner at the Elks Club and it was quite good and affordable. The next photo shows my bingo pack before the event began. I was provided with a bunch of paper bingo cards in a variety of colors along with a schedule of which bingo games would be played, which bingo cards would be used, and what the prize would be. For a dollar extra I bought this special red bingo ink that could be used to mark off the numbers on the cards.

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Bingo night turned out to be a long one and it ended around 11 p.m. As the evening went on I gradually went through and discarded the bingo cards. I ended up not winning anything that evening even though there was a couple of games when I was only one or two squares away from winning until someone else called out “BINGO!” I only took photos of the last two bingo rounds of the evening. The photo below shows a regular bingo game.

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The final photo in this post shows a bingo variation called “Coverall” where you had to cover all the numbers on a card before you call out “BINGO!” As you can see, there was one card where I was three squares away from winning but someone else beat me to it.

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When I attended my weekly support group meeting the following Thursday (August 21), I learned that this event raised over $2,000 for Changing Focus. Sweet! :-)

I was totally exhausted from such a long day. I got confused as to which way to turn out of the Elks Club parking lot and I soon realized that I made a wrong turn when I saw Stevenson Road turn into Quarterfield Road. I found a parking lot where I could make a quick turnaround and, when I entered, I saw a sign saying that the building was Quarterfield Elementary School. That was the first school I had ever attended and I was there from grades 1-5. (Anne Arundel County Public Schools didn’t even have kindergarten at the time I started school. I think the school system eventually got wise and added kindergarten classes when I was in the fourth or fifth grade.) If it weren’t for the fact that my the battery power was low on my smartphone and it was after 11 p.m. at night time, I would’ve walked around the school and taken a few photos. It was kind of neat to accidentally blunder across my old school.

In any case I eventually found my way back to the main roads so I was able to travel home without any incident. The next day I decided to do a Google search on both Glen Burnie and Crabtowne USA and I found this post on The Surfing Pizza blog that’s also about Glen Burnie and, like me, he also grew up in that town but he moved away as an adult. (He moved to Baltimore while I moved closer to DC.) That post covers similar ground to this one except he goes into two other malls from my childhood that have undergone radical changes—Harundale Mall and Jumper’s Hole Mall.

Benjamin Franklin

Death takes no bribes.

A few days ago I saw that the local Safeway in my area had started selling Oreo cookies that were root beer flavored. I returned to the same store recently where I saw this.

Cookie Dough Oreo

It’s cookie dough flavored Oreo cookies. It’s cookie dough that’s between another cookie. I’m sure that a philosophy sort could make a metaphor out of it or something like that.

When I got home from grocery shopping I saw this lovely sunset.

Lovely Sunset

Here is the sixth video in a series of computer animations called The Unicorn With An Attitude that I did back in the 1990’s in an ill-fated attempt to show off my abilities as an artist and a computer whiz in the hopes of either 1) get famous or 2) get a higher paying job than the office administrative work that I was frequently offered.

I created this animation way back in 1995 and I actually uploaded it on various BBS as well as CompuServe. I originally created it as an animated gif using cheap software for a 386 PC. I later imported it into QuickTime and uploaded it on my own site. I have totally remastered it in high definition video using Apple iMovie. As for the music, I used one of YouTube’s royalty-free songs.

This clip was a parody of what happened when the jury reached a decision in the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial and how people admitted to the media that they have gotten so hooked on watching live broadcasts of his trial on television that they were sad to see it end. These people treated that trial as soap opera-style entertainment instead of a serious murder trial with lots of implications for the people involved. Here is the original write-up that accompanied the video.

In “Withdrawal” the Unicorn With an Attitude’s mother suffers from severe withdrawal as the televised trial of T.J. Simmons (the football star who was accused of murdering his entire family) ends. It’s a sequel of sorts to both Channel Surfing and The Art Class.

So, without further ado, here is “Withdrawal”

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