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Santa Claus

My birthday is on December 15 and I usually like to do something fun. Last year I spent my birthday last slogging through Baltimore in very bitter cold temperature and frantically trying to contact someone in authority about a homeless man who was sleeping on the steps of the Baltimore Convention Center despite the fact that the Polar Vortex had come through the area plunging the temperature below 20 degrees.

I don’t know if I reached anyone and I was stymied by the fact that I don’t live in Baltimore so I didn’t know who to turn to. I spent the next couple of days doing Google searches to see if anyone had frozen to death on the steps of the Convention Center only to turn up empty. I guess the man survived that bitter cold night but I’ll never know for sure.

This year I decided to go to Tyson’s Corner Mall in Virginia because I had spent some fun birthdays there in previous years and I also wanted to avoid any more drama about homeless people in cold weather. December 15 fell on a Friday this year so I was looking forward to it.

Except it rained that day then the temperature plunged to below freezing so all that rain on the ground turned into ice. I still have memories of when I slipped on ice in Annapolis back in 2011, which resulted in my hip replacement being knocked out of position so I had to undergo hip revision surgery later that year in order to put it back into place. I just wasn’t willing to risk falling and having my hip replacement messed up.

So I decided to postpone that trip a couple of days. December 18 fell on a Monday, which is usually a relatively quiet night at that mall. Except it was just a few days before Christmas so there were more people shopping there on a Monday night than usual. But it still wasn’t bad. Here are the photos I shot that night.

I took the Metro to the mall, where I was greeted with this cool rainbow Christmas tree and some lovely twinkling lights when I arrived.

Some people were resting at one of the many fire pits that are set up outside this time of the year.

People could be found skating on a temporary ice skating rink, which is also usually set up this time of the year.

The first store I hit was American Girl Place. I was on a mission. Here’s the backstory: This year American Girl decided on an African American character for its Girl of the Year named Gabriela McBride. She was the first girl of color to be given such an honor since since 2005. She’s described as being an artist, which I find personally cool since I’m an artist myself. Earlier this year I was having camera problems so when I arrived at American Girl Place back in June, I was unable to shoot any photos while I was there. A few weeks later it was July and I decided to return to American Girl Place with my Canon DSLR in tow. I was able to shoot a few pictures until the battery ran out of juice. So I got pictures of the new contemporary doll Tenney Grant and her friend, Logan Everett, who’s known as the first boy doll that American Girl has ever released. I also got a picture of a case displaying what was the newest BeForever doll at the time—Melody Ellison, who’s supposed to represent the 1960s. But those were the only pictures I got before my camera battery died on me.

Ironically  I came close to arriving at American Girl Place without a camera this time around. I had left my Canon PowerShot camera in the car and I didn’t realize it until after I had gone on the Metro train at the Greenbelt station. I managed to dart out of the train before the doors closed and walked outside the station and back to the parking lot so I could retrieve my camera.

It was worth the effort to retrieve my camera and arrive at the mall a little bit later because, at long last, I was finally able to take pictures of the 2017 Girl of the Year, Gabriela McBride. On top of it, this doll was scheduled to retire after New Year’s Eve and be replaced by the 2018 Girl of the Year (which means that this doll will be retired by the time you read this). Here’s the standee where people can take selfies with Gabriela and a brick backdrop.

Here’s Gabriela herself. I think she’s a cute doll and I love her art accessories, especially the miniature replicas of a paint set and a sketchbook pad.

I was also able to take pictures of another doll on this trip. American Girl has been releasing a new line of contemporary characters who are growing up in today’s era. I took pictures of would-be country musician Tenney Grant and her male friend Everett Logan on the last trip. American Girl released another character who have nothing to do with Tenney or Everett and she has her own separate story. Her name is Z Yang, she is a Korean American, and she is passionate about photography and videography. Like Gabriela McBride, Z Yang also shares my interest. (To be fair, Tenney Grant shares my interest in playing the guitar except I prefer rock and folk music over country.) Z Yang’s miniature photography and video equipment are absolutely adorable (even if they are expensive).

They even have a human version of Z Yang’s meet outfit, which I personally find adorable. Sadly they are only available in children’s sizes.

Since my last visit to American Girl place back in July, American Girl have released a new BeForever historical doll. Her name is Nanea Mitchell and she has a white American father and a Hawaiian mother. She is described as growing up in the then-U.S. territory of Hawaii in 1941. Anyone who knows history will know what major event happened in Hawaii back in 1941.

I found Nanea to be gorgeous in person. I loved her meet outfit and her shell necklace.

They offer a variety of Hawaiian clothes for Nanea that are sold separately.

American Girl offers Nanea’s Family Market, which can be yours for only $250. (LOL!) I have to admit that I’m really impressed by the details on that furniture, including the tiny replicas of vintage World War II-era posters.

 

Here’s a photo of the 1960s BeForever character, Melody Ellison, wearing this gorgeous yellow outfit.

American Girl had this good sale on Melody’s Hairstyling Set, which was only priced at $5. That’s a pretty good deal compared to the high prices that this store usually charges. If I had a Melody doll, I definitely would’ve purchased it.

American Girl had a really cute new outfit for Julie Albright, who represents the 1970s. I remember people actually wore embroidered peasant blouses and blue jeans skirts back when I was a kid so her outfit definitely brought back memories for me.

Since another BeForever character, Rebecca Rubin (who represents the 1910s), is Jewish, there was a Hanukkah display featuring this doll.

The next two photos show a display of the Wellie Wishers dolls. They are pretty cute and I like their outfits.

American Girl had a display touting this one new service that they offer called Create Your Own. The idea is that if you don’t find a doll and/or an outfit that you want, you can always create a customized product. The idea of a customized doll isn’t new. The Japanese ball-jointed doll company Volks has long offered something called a Full Choice System which, from what I heard, can run into hundreds of dollars. The now-defunct Makies dolls had a similar service where you can get a 3D printed doll for far less. (I still miss that company. Sigh! If you’re curious, you can check out my posts about my one and only Makies doll, Victoria.)

So American Girl is now trying its hand at a similar customized service. There are two caveats about this new service: 1) You can only order the doll and/or outfit online since the store don’t offer any facilities to allow anyone to design something in-store and 2) Your customized doll and/or outfit will cost way more than an off-the-shelf product. According to this link, a Create Your Own doll costs $200 versus an off-the-shelf doll for $115.

I saw these American Girl Mega Construx kits featuring characters who were previous Girls of the Year, including Mia St. Clair, Kanani Akina, Isabelle Palmer, Lea Clark, and Saige Copeland.

 

Here’s a case full of the 9-inch mini doll versions of the historical 18-inch BeForever characters.

Here are a few more miscellaneous photos I took inside of American Girl place, including the  store’s Christmas tree.

I went to Build-A-Bear Workshop where I checked out these Star Wars plushes and some Christmas reindeers.

I checked out this temporary Christmas shop that will be in business until after New Year’s Day.

Strangely that store had some Day of the Dead-themed ornaments and decorations even though that holiday had long since passed.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Beatles Christmas ornament available for sale.

I went to The Disney Store, where I saw a lot of tie-ins to the new Disney/Pixar movie Coco (which I actually saw on Christmas Day) and the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi (which I saw on the day after Christmas)

I went to the LEGO store where I saw some cool things on display.

I ate my belated birthday dinner at Wasabi, the Japanese sushi place that delivers its food on conveyor belts. I really love the food, which is why I keep on returning to that place. If my finances weren’t so tight, I would be eating there more often than once or twice a year.

I went to Lolli and Pops where I purchased some gummy bears made from champaign and took these pictures.

That store sold two teddy bears named—what else?—Lolli and Pops.

Here are a few miscellaneous photos I took during my time at that mall.

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I learned via Facebook that Third Eye Comics was having a Halloween ComicFest right in its store. Not only were there really cool sales but they had some free sample comic books to give away as well. (It’s almost like the annual Free Comic Book Day except it’s in October instead of May.) So I went down to Annapolis where I took these photos.

The one thing I’ve noticed is that there seems to be more comic books based on cartoons that I used to watch on television when I was a child.

I laughed at these comic books taking jabs at Donald Trump. I just wasn’t in the mood to buy them though because I’ve had more than my fill of Donald Trump and his constant need for attention. (I feel this way after he’s only been in office for 10 months.)

I’d never thought I would ever see Stan Lee action figures. (LOL!)

They have cloth dolls based on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic book series.

I laughed at seeing this set of Batman action figures all patterned after the rainbow flag. I wonder how many of my LGBTQ friends would be interested in that one? (LOL!)

A culinary-minded person can do some superhero-themed cooking.

I took advantage of the sales to purchase the three-volume graphic novel series Batgirl of Burnside. I checked the first and third volumes out of the public library a few months ago and I liked them really well. (My library frequently have this situation where, in the case of book series, it might have some volumes of a certain series but not all of them. Part of the reason is because people check them out but I’ve never seen the second volume of Batgirl of Burnside in my library ever. I looked for months and I’ve only seen the first and third volumes. I can only guess that some jerk checked out volume 2 and never returned it.)

I decided to check out the Spirit of Halloween as well. I originally was going to go to the one in Bowie since that was the one place where I knew such as store was operating until I did a quick search on Google Maps. I found that there was another Spirit of Halloween store that was just located one mile away from Third Eye Comics so I decided to go there instead.

The same shopping center had a lighthouse that was located next to a movie theater. The biggest irony is that the nearest body of water was located at least three miles away from where both the lighthouse and shopping center were located.

I arrived at the Spirit of Halloween where I took these photos, starting with the ways in which one could come dressed as either Donald Trump, Melania Trump, or Vladimir Putin.

I know that some of the Disney Moana-themed costumes have been controversial so I’m amazed that any store is still carrying them.

I purchased only one item from that Spirit of Halloween store. It’s a small gargoyle where, if you pressed its belly, its eyes light up and it says one of four phrases (such as “You are doomed!”). This gargoyle was perfect for decorating my car trunk for the Trunk or Treat event that took place at my church on the following day.

This really violent storm went through my area one hot and humid summer day (a.k.a. normal August weather in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area) which not only cooled everything off temporarily (the hot and humid weather returned the following day) but provided these really dramatic pictures.

I saw this really cool rainbow. I rarely see rainbows and, when I do, I only get to see just a portion of that rainbow. This photo documents the first time I’ve seen a full rainbow in recent memory.

That rainbow was short-lived because the sun tended to dart behind the clouds. But that storm provided some really dramatic looking clouds.

Those dramatic clouds provided a backdrop to this really cool looking sunset.

I headed to Dupont Circle to check out Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at the Bier Baron in Washington, DC. Usually I would get to Dupont Circle by taking the Green Line Metro from the Greenbelt station, transfer to the Red Line at the Fort Totten station then taking that train the rest of the way to the Dupont Circle station. This particular Sunday the Greenbelt station was closed because Metro was doing this month-long Safe Track work and it was offering shuttle buses as a substitute.

Rather than dealing with shuttle buses, I decided to go from Sunday service at my church and drive to the Silver Spring Metro station because it’s on the Red Line (plus I wouldn’t have to do any transfers). It also gave me an opportunity to take a few photographs of this charming penguin mural that was recently erected outside the station.

A homeless person’s belongings sit across from the penguins wall mural.

Once I arrived in downtown Washington, DC I saw this dog sticking its head outside the window of a car that was driving through Dupont Circle.

Here’s a welcoming sign that was posted in the window of Second Story Books.

The next few photos show the window display at 1 West Dupont Circle Wines & Liquors, including Absolute Vodka in a rainbow bottle and a few skull-shaped decanters.

I found this interesting relief outside one of the buildings in Dupont Circle.

I eventually made my way to the Bier Baron where Dr. Sketchy’s was held. The model for this event was a burlesque performer named Candy del Rio. Some of the drawings in this post are definitely NSFW.

There was only one contest during this event, which I took part in. The theme was science (in a nod to the March For Science, which was held in Washington, DC the day before.) I decided to go for science fiction and incorporate the movie Jurassic Park and dinosaurs.

I won that contest and my prize was a drink of my choice from the bar. I chose a hard cider that made me a bit loopy. (Fortunately I had taken the Metro so I was pretty much sober by the time I reached my car at the Silver Spring Metro station.)

I did a couple more drawings of Candy del Rio before the event ended.

I took a few more photographs after I left Dr. Sketchy’s and the Bier Baron starting with this window display.

I really love this building with the red brick. This one houses the Portuguese Embassy.

I’ll end this post with yet another dog sticking its head outside the window of a car.

Last November my Unitarian Universalist church joined the many other houses of worship across the United States in putting up a Black Lives Matter sign.

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My congregation did one better with this sign. It also added the heart logo of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign and a rainbow banner indicating that it’s a welcoming congregation for the LBGTQ community. My congregation voted to erect this sign despite the fact that other houses of worship who have put up Black Lives Matter signs and banners have had them either defaced or stolen outright.

This morning I learned that my congregation has had the sign stolen. Yes, it’s distressing but, no, my congregation is not deterred. The word is that we will get a new identical banner and put it up. My congregation refuses to cower to the forces of racism, homophobia, and other types of ugly prejudice that has especially sprung up in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.

I was driving through Mount Rainier, Maryland when I noticed a house located just a few doors away from ReCreative Spaces. Like most of the homes in Mount Rainier, this house is an older Victorian-style home with a picket fence. However, instead of this fence being painted white, this one is painted like the colors of a rainbow.

In addition, this rainbow fence also sports a sign indicating that everyone is welcomed in Spanish, English, and Arabic.

This house is an example of some of the subtle yet creative ways of resistance that has taken place since Donald Trump became president. Last week his second attempt to institute a second travel ban against Muslims from certain countries has been overturned by a federal judge. Of course he has banned Muslims from countries where he does not currently have any business ties.

But that’s not all, folks. Trump is also considering breaking up asylum-seeking families at the Mexican border on the rationale that it will “deter more movement.” That means that children can be separated from their parents.

I’m currently living in some dark times in the United States. At least that home in Mount Rainier is trying to do something that’s colorful yet still indicates that the occupants in that home are resisting the Trump Administration.

Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

I went to the last Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School event in Washington, DC for 2016. Once again it was held at the Bier Baron located in Dupont Circle. When I was on my way to taking the Metro at the Greenbelt station I found this Christmas Panda display hyping the annual ZooLights event that’s currently going on at the National Zoo through January 1, 2017.

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I last went to ZooLights back in 2012. Come to think of it, it also happened to be the last time I actually visited the National Zoo. I made a mental note that I should go and see it again at some point (especially since the admission is free).

As I was walking towards the Bier Baron I noticed that the Church of the Pilgrims had these large banners hanging outside and they were both visible from a distance.

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The larger of the two was a #BlackLivesMatter banner, which streamed down the belfry.

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Outside the front entrance is a rainbow banner with the words “ALL ARE WELCOME” written underneath. Dupont Circle is DC’s LGBTQ area so it makes sense for a Presbyterian church to reach out to people in that community.

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I eventually made it to the Bier Baron, where I shot this promo poster for the latest Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School to be held there.

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A burlesque performer known as Cherie Sweetbottom was the model for that event. Some of the drawings in this entry are definitely NSFW.

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This event only had one contest that day. We had to draw Cherie Sweetbottom as the Virgin Mary (which was a nod to the upcoming Christmas season). I had an idea of somehow having her give birth to the notorious Christmas demon Krampus. Here is what I drew.

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I won that contest. My prize was a drink of my choice from the bar. (I picked one of the fruity beers whose name now escapes me.) That drawing even led me to create Trumpus, which I now have on sale in my RedBubble store.

I did a few more drawings of Cherie Sweetbottom before the event ended.

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On the way out I took one photo of flyer announcing a Grampus-themed burlesque show that was taking place at the Bier Baron a few days later. I wasn’t able to make it but I only took the photo because I liked the design of the flyer.

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After going to Dr. Sketchy’s I headed towards the White House to check out the National Christmas Tree, which I’ll write about in a future post.

I need to find a different title than “daily sketches” because I have completely thrown by the wayside my New Year’s resolution that I would create one new sketch each day. I quickly learned that working on daily sketches each day takes time from other arts and crafts projects that I’m working on as well as other things that I should be doing (such as cleaning the house). My “daily sketchbook” effort really became pathetic when I made only one new sketch in the entire month of June—and that one was in response to the horrible shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

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This past month I managed to churn out three sketches, starting with this one. I was inspired to create this sketch after hearing the news about a bullfighter matador in Spain named Victor Barrio who was recently gored to death by his bull opponent in the ring. His death was shown live on Spanish television and he is known to have been the first matador killed during a bullfight in over 30 years.

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I feel bad for the bullfighter’s family because I know that dealing with a loved one’s sudden and unexpected death is such a shock. But I have zero sympathy for the late bullfighter himself because he was participating in a so-called “sport” whose advocates call it “sheer beauty and artistry” when all it really entails is some man slowly torturing a bull to death with spears while waving a red cape and shouting “¡Olé!” I’ve never understood what was so great about bullfighting, especially when I took Spanish in college and one of the chapters in the class textbook dealt with words and phrases related to bullfighting. I remember the instructor in that class admitted that she personally didn’t like bullfighting either. (She originally came from Cuba, a nation with no bullfighting tradition.) That bullfighter would still be alive had he picked a different occupation that’s less dangerous and deadly. Bullfighting is one so-called “tradition” that needs to go away along with other so-called “traditions” like female genital mutilation and slavery.

Later in the month I did this drawing full of gears of many colors. I had gone to an event at this makerspace located in Crystal City, Virginia known as TechShop and its logo has the letter “o” shaped like a gear. I just took that gear idea and elaborated it further with a bunch of interconnected gears. It was something I did really quick and it shows. (If I was doing a professional drawing, I would’ve done it using a 2H pencil first while erasing and refining it until I got it just right. Then I would’ve traced over it with ink.)

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For the last drawing I did in the month of June, I went back to Rory’s Story Cubes. I mixed the Prehistoria and Enchanted sets together and this drawing was the result.

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I had a pretty busy weekend. On June 11 I went to Hon Fest in Baltimore. At noon on June 12 I went to the grand opening of the new SCETA Japan Center, which I wrote about in my last post. After going to that event I went on the Metro to Dupont Circle where I attended yet another session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at the Bier Baron.

The model for this session was Reggie Bügmüncher, who’s known as Philadelphia’s Queen of the Sideshow. She’s not your typical burlesque performer. I previously drew her at the Baltimore Dr. Sketchy’s event last year and she began the evening with eating live worms on stage. She didn’t bring worms this time but she did a brief performance where she laid on barbed wire and she invited a member of the audience to kneel on a board that was placed on top of Reggie. If all that wasn’t enough, she was even briefly in the news last year regarding that British Airways plane that caught fire at a Las Vegas airport. (She wasn’t on that plane. She happened to be in the airport terminal waiting for another flight when she looked out the window, saw the plane on fire, took a photo of it, and uploaded it to social media. The mainstream media—especially in the UK—noticed her name and things took off from there.)

Here are my drawings from that event, some of which are definitely NSFW.

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There was only one contest at that event and I took part in it. Reggie had changed into this sexy cowgirl outfit and we were supposed to incorporate a rodeo clown. I decided on Donald Trump because he’s a total buffoon and his increasingly ridiculous campaign contains rhetoric that a circus clown could easily spout for laughs. Plus his orange skin helps with the clown makeup. Of course I drew him with a gag over his mouth, which would be a definite improvement in real life. (LOL!) My drawing didn’t make it among the finalists.

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I did a few more drawings of Reggie Bügmüncher, including ones where she’s wearing an outfit that actually exposes one of her nipples. (She didn’t wear a pastie that day.)

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On the way back to the Metro I took a couple shots of these colorful rainbow bottles that were sitting in the window of this liquor store.

Colorful Liquor Bottles

Colorful Liquor Bottles

Ramadan

I know I wrote a few days ago that I wasn’t going to do any kind of online memorials to that awful shooting in Orlando that happened at a gay nightclub known as Pulse because I’ve seen it all before in previous mass shootings. I’ve softened my stance somewhat after I’ve seen flags everywhere being lowered to half-staff after President Obama ordered this in order to honor the victims of that shooting. I even made this drawing in my sketchbook about the tragedy that I’d like to share with you.

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I could write more about what happened in Orlando and how horrible it was in this post. But instead of writing maudlin sentences over how horrible this tragedy was, I’m going to show the Orlando I personally know.

I made my first trip to Florida on my honeymoon. Prior to the wedding my fiance and I were originally planning on a weekend honeymoon at a local place like Williamsburg or Ocean City until my cousin, who was dying to have more family members come visit her and her then-husband at their home in Cocoa, offered my husband and I free room in their home. So after the wedding we spent the week with her and her now-ex-husband and their two dogs (one was a standard poodle while the other was a tiny toy poodle). The four of us spent the first day at Wet and Wild but, after that, my husband and I were on our own regarding exploring the greater Orlando area mainly because they had to work and they didn’t have much vacation time. I remember my husband and I spent the majority of time visiting Walt Disney World, which only had two theme parks at the time: the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. (Walt Disney World has since expanded to include more theme parks and attractions along with a lot of hotels.)

We loved that area so much that we ended up making several return trips to Orlando over the years. I have a lot of photos from those trips but most of them need to be digitally scanned because I shot a lot of them back in the day when film photography coupled with printing paper photographs was the dominant method of photography. I have a few digital photos from my last two trips to Orlando that I’ve previously posted in this blog. I’ll repost just a few of them along with links to those entries if you want to see more.

Here is a photo of a bald eagle that I took at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on August 14, 2010.

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Here’s a photo of Cinderella’s Castle that I took at the Magic Kingdom on August 15, 2010.

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These two jumping dolphins were taken at Sea World on August 17, 2010.

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I shot these two alligators making a snuggle sandwich with a turtle in the middle at Gatorland on August 19, 2010.

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Here’s a recreation of the R.M.S. Titanic’s grand staircase that I shot at Titanic: The Experience on August 19, 2010.

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Here is a view of Epcot that I shot on February 15, 2011.

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This African man was working on a wood carving at Epcot on February 15, 2011.

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Here are a couple of photos of Downtown Disney that I shot on February 18, 2011.

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Here’s a photo of a row of cupcakes that I shot at a bakery in Downtown Disney but posted shortly after my 2011 trip to Florida ended on February 20, 2011. If you look close enough you can see sprinkles shaped like Mickey Mouse.

Downtown Disney

I have to admit that most of the photos were of the tourist attractions. The only photos I took of the Orlando area that even show how the locals live their everyday lives are the ones I took in Longwood, which is located just outside of the Orlando city limits. I was enchanted by the Victorian architecture such as the building in this photo that I shot on February 18, 2011.

Longwood, Florida

During one of my many trips to Orlando I purchased this cell kit from Walt Disney World where I painted animation cells of Mickey and Minnie Mouse then placed them over the provided backgrounds then put them in these cheap cardboard frames that also came with the kit. I later donated the completed cell paintings to a yard sale that was put on by my support group for people who are separated or divorced. (I originally wrote a post about these two on September 25, 2014.)

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And last, but not least, here is a drawing I did of Minnie Mouse when I took a 30-minute workshop on how to draw her on one of the provided computers at DisneyQuest, which is located in Downtown Disney, during my last trip to Florida in 2011. I still have the drawing buried somewhere in my home.

Minnie Mouse

The only reason why I haven’t been back to Florida since 2011 is tight finances, which became a problem for me after my divorce. I would like to go back one day and I would definitely go right now if I had the chance despite that Pulse nightclub shooting.

Getting back to that Pulse shooting, I know that it’s horrible that 50 people died. (Most people are saying that 49 have died in order to not count the 50th person—the shooter himself.) But for people to say that the Pulse shooting is the worst terrorist attack or worst mass murder ever perpetrated on American soil is a bit much because there have been other violent events in U.S. history where the body count is either equal to or way higher than the Pulse nightclub shooting. In order to get some perspective, here are some links to these other events that all happened on U.S. soil.

Wounded Knee massacre in 1890

East St. Louis in 1917

Elaine, Arkansas in 1919

Tulsa race riot in 1921

Rosewood massacre in 1923

Oklahoma City bombing in 1995

September 11, 2001

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