Monday, August 30, 2010

Mid-Atlanticon 2010!

I suppose I'm not much of a joiner. I'm not one for clubs or conferences or conventions in general, but when I heard about Mid-Atlanticon 2010, that was a different story. I had to be there! It was a meetup somewhere along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States of America, featuring fans of the Comics Curmudgeon blog site that takes an alternative, often hilarious, and always interesting look at the daily funnies. Yes, those comics we see every day but usually don't give much more than a passing glance at. Who ARE those people behind Beetle Bailey, For Better or For Worse, Mary Worth, and Mark Trail? (the answer to the latter may be disturbing to sensitive readers)

The Comics Curmudgeon was created by Baltimore-based writer and editor Josh Fruhlinger, and he has a fan base of many thousands who can't wait to read what he has to say about whatever daily comic he chooses to comment on each day. Many of us can't wait to weigh in with our own opinions. Well! A Comics Curmudgeon Meetup was something not to miss, so off to Washington DC I went!

My trip got off to an exciting start when I discovered an authentic Montgomery Ward mini-fridge in my Virginia motel room! Montgomery Ward has been out of business for years now, but their fine products remain. It was a wonderful fridge.


Next up was a fun evening with fellow curmudgeons wossname and bourbon babe, unbuckled that included a barbecue, lots of laughter, and Mooncattie's first Scotch!

The following afternoon - a group of happy curmudgeons gathered at Washington's National Zoo for a tour of the Small Mammal House conducted by volunteer guide Perky Bird.


The animal we all came to see! A real live prehensive porcupine!

Oh, and I saw a Panda bear as well.


Finally, it was time for the great event. Our meetup took place inside Washington's Capitol City Brewing Company brewpub. As you can see, it's a pretty impressive looking place from the outside. Yes, it really was that big.

Sadly, I don't have a good photograph of Josh himself. But I do have this photograph of the star of the evening, Mark Trail's plucky young ... er ... ward? Son? Buddy? Well, it's Rusty's Head On A Stick, and we all agreed that was indeed the best place for him. His occasional extreme close-ups in Mark Trail are pretty frightening usually. We're pretty sure he's a science experiment gone horribly wrong, but in Mark Trail that's sort of par for the course.



Well, amid much laughter, fresh beer, and fine food, an excellent time was had by all. I met some wonderful people, and it was great fun to share comics-related chat with folks I had only previously known through the blog. I hope there will be another meetup one day (full disclosure: I had gone to a previous gathering in Tucson, Arizona in 2008!), and I hope to return to Washington DC as well.
NEXT: All Aboard for Cresson, Pennsylvania and The Station Inn!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Warsaw

Crumbs! Here we are with the Summer of 2010 finish line coming into view, and I haven't been very good at keeping up with entries on this page. I've done loads of traveling and have lots of stuff to chat about, so I'll have a go at putting up a series of short chapters on my comings and goings since early April in no particular order.

Here are some photos from my first-ever trip to Warsaw, Poland. I dropped in for two nights in mid-July of this year during a rather extended European heat wave. Happily, my Novotel room was nicely air-conditioned.

Here's a view of Warsaw's gigantic 1950's era Palace of Culture and Science from my 15th floor window. The guides usually say that one should begin any visit to Warsaw with a trip up to the Observation Deck of this so-called "gift" to the Polish people from Stalin.



Here's the view looking south-east, back towards my hotel and the city beyond! Not especially attractive, I'm afraid.



More evidence that the city in general is rather, well, ugly. This view looks west from the Palace of Culture and Science, with a large shopping mall and office complex in the bottom-left corner. Much of the area to the west was part of the Jewish ghetto set up by the Nazis during World War II.



Much of the border of the Jewish Ghetto has been marked for posterity with inlaid bricks as seen below, similar to the Berlin Wall outlines that one sees nowadays marking the old boundary between East and West Berlin.



There is very little of the original Ghetto wall left. This one section remains in the courtyard of a housing unit, and one sees the ever-present Palace peeking over in the distance.



My favourite part of Warsaw was the Kazienkowski Park, a former royal park now open and free for everyone to explore. I enjoyed the bits of forest, lagoons, sculptures, and pathways. It was a pleasant place to wander around on a hot summer's afternoon. Peacocks make their home here, and are fun to watch.









How can you resist a park that features a bust of Caligula? I guess he would have been an improvement on a lot of the folks who invaded this city.



My other Warsaw highlight was in the newly-rebuilt Old City, which had nothing to do with the buildings. It was a hose laid out as a sprinkler for folks to get some relief from the heat wave. It was wonderful! I'd love to see that sort of thing in other cities, especially my home town. Children would hop in, then run out squealing with delight. This little bit of Warsaw put a smile on every visitor's face.
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I visited Krakow about five years ago, and I have to admit that it is a much more beautiful place to visit than Warsaw. It benefits, of course, from not being razed to the ground by Hitler's army. Although the apartment blocks, office blocks, and retail blocks of Warsaw seemed monolithic and charmless to me, there are still some nice places to explore in the city. The Nowy Swiat "royal route" is chock-a-block with high-end cafes, nice restaurants, and a brewpub or two. At the north end, the Old City features a number of rebuilt churches, public squares, and cobblestone laneways. The city appears to have a very good transit system. I enjoyed hopping on and off the trams that seem to form a web from the inner city, and Warsaw's single-line subway system is in the process of being expanded with the Euro 2012 football championships fast approaching. There is a lot of construction going on in Warsaw, and I do hope that the architecture of the next generation is more imaginative and attractive than that of the past few decades.
NEXT: Mid-Atlanticon! A Meeting of Curmudgeons!