april 2018

Last week was Will's spring break, and since it coincided with Easter, we decided to do something that I've always wanted to do: take Will to experience one of my favorite childhood memories of Easter by attending the sunrise service at my parents' church in Wilmington NC.

I've always really liked sunrise services for Easter, no matter what the context, but the one from the church I grew up in is truly special. There is a bell tower in our church that has a small platform on top of the roof, and that service on Easter is the only time all year it is open to the congregation. In the predawn, you climb you way up rickety old steps (that would actually better be described as ladders), passing the massive old bell on the way, until you emerge at the top of the tower, where, if the skies are clear, you will not only have a clear view of the sun rising to the east, but you also have a beautiful view of downtown Wilmington and the Cape Fear River.

We left on Saturday and arrived in Wilmington in time for a home cooked dinner that evening. My sister who lives in Georgia had arrived the day before for a visit, but she had to go back for work reasons that night, so we didn't get to see her that long. My other sister, who still lives in Wilmington, was also there with her husband and my new nephew Harvey, who was born in January. This was our first time meeting him, so Will was very excited to hang out with his new cousin.

On Sunday morning, we got up around 5:30 so we could make sure we were at the church and at the top of the bell tower by the time the service started at 6:30. It's always so amazing to see the church on the way to the bell tower entrance—it's fully decorated for Easter, but so quiet and serene. You get to climb up to the choir loft first, and then up even higher to a smaller, more ancient choir loft before crawling through a human-sized mouse hole to get to the first set of stairs.

I was pleased to see that some enhancements had been made since I was a kid (the last time I was here was probably twenty years ago)—there were Christmas tree lights strung up at every level to make it so you didn't have to juggle a flashlight while climbing, and there was also fresh wood providing evidence of weakers stairs and railings being replaced in the last few years. Will had a ball, of course—it's a pretty magical experiece for a kid, and he's very in to new experiences.

It was a very clear morning, too, and while there were certainly a lot of people on the platform, I didn't feel as squeezed as I have some years. I think the platform can hold about 60 people at its maximum, and there were probably about 40 there that morning. One of the other really special parts of this service is that we sing three hymns that were written by parishoners in the 1800s, and this sunrise service is the only time of year that they are included in the liturgy.

We were the last ones to leave—Will was just having too much fun up there—and we took one more walk around the nave to look at all the Easter lillies before heading home. My dad made his famous waffles for breakfast, and then Will spent some time looking for the Easter basket and candy-filled eggs that the Easter bunny had left for him.

After that, we all took naps to get refreshed for the rest of the day, and then later that afternoon by sister, Harvey, and her husband came over for Easter dinner, along with a couple more in-laws. It was a great day overall, and I was so happy that Will got to experience one of the most special memories from my childhood with me and my parents.

The day after Easter, we drove to visit Julie's mother's family, who live about an hour away from Wilmington. Her mom had driven down to meet us, and we started with lunch at a local barbecue place that included several aunts, uncles, and cousins—about 12-15 people in all, including a cousin named Kate who is about Will's age.

After lunch we went back over to one of the in-law's houses and sat by their lake and talked while the kids ran around playing games. There was a break in the play when it was time to feed the fish and turtles who live in the lake, but otherwise the kids were running around pretty much the entire time. It was a nice visit that gave us a chance to see a lot of people we hadn't seen to two or three years (or more), and Will had a great time getting to know part of the family he hasn't gottent to spend much time around.

On Tuesday we spent the morning at the battleship that is anchored in the Cape Fear River, the USS North Carolina, which saw a lot of action in World War II. We have taken Will once before when he was younger, and although he had good memories of that visit, he enjoyed the second visit a lot more, in no small part because this time we were joined by my dad. We went to every possible corner of the ship that was open to the public (including a few spaces that I think were closed for renovations/repairs last time), and we ended up spending more than two hours there.

For lunch we met the rest of the family (including my sister, her husband, and my nephew) in a little cafe in an up and coming area a few blocks from the downtown waterfront. While we were there, Will and I visited the local vinyl shop, where he was introduced to the ancient technology of cassette tapes. He was so fascinated by him that the owner gave him one for free (a tape of Christian workout songs that Will liked to cover art for). It doesn't matter that we no longer possess the machinery needed for playback—Will has put this in his box of very special artifacts.

We also visited the non-profit where my sister's husband works, which provides a workshop for kids to make things and a small storefront where they can sell them. We bought a few items while we were there, including a jellyfish painting for Will's room, but Will's favorite thing was a wooden name badge that one of the instructors helped him make. Will likes to pretend that our home is the location of the G Fish Aquarium, which is his fishtank, and that he is the owner. He puts up signs all around the house designating the restrooms, the hours of operation, and the employee-only restricted areas, etc. So this is the badge they made for him (they used a laser tool to engrave this on wood):

G Fish Aquarium

He was beyond thrilled, and says he wants to go back to learn how to make more things.

After a quick stop back at the house, my parents and my family all headed over to Wrightsville Beach to meet one of Julie's high school friends that she hasn't seen in at least a couple of decades. My dad and I walked all the way down to the southern end of the beach, where we could see his house across in the inland waterway, while Julie, her friend, and my stepmother watched the kids play (Julie's friend had a daughter a couple of years younger than Will, and they got on very well, first playing in the freezing water then moving to a playground when even they got too cold).

We all reconvened for dinner at a favorite spot, Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn, which is probably our second favorite place to eat in Wilmington. I usually like their jerk chicken burrito, but I decided to try their signature dish, the Flaming Amy burrito, which features chipotle peppers, fresh jalapenos, green chiles, and flaming hot salsa. It was pretty good if you like spicy foods—it's definitely hot, but at the upper edge of pleasurable heat.

Wednesday of our trip was my birthday, and the only thing I really wanted was to go to lunch at my favorite spot in Wilmington: Salt Works. They serve the best hot dogs in the world, and I order the same thing every time: two cheese dogs all the way (ketchup, mustard, onions, chili, and coleslaw) with french fries, which I douse with Texas Pete from the squeeze bottles on the tables that you would normally keep ketchup in.

We had a walk in the morning before lunch, and then in the afternoon we went strawberry picking and also got some ice cream (I didn't feel too bad about not getting strawberry ice cream even though that was obviously the specialty; I just got plain vanilla, with a waffle cone as a birthday treat). We also stopped at a specialty store for hot sauces and locally canned items, where I stocked up on some candied jalapenos, which I've become obessed with after a friend at work gave me a jar she picked up at a farmer's market. For dinner we met my sister and her family at a little Korean/Japanese place called Kabuki, which was delicious and had just the right portion sizes.

That was followed by carrot cake back at the house where we said our goodbyes to my sister and my new nephew—we were leaving in the morning and wouldn't see them again. It was a pretty good day, and a nice way to spend my last day in Wilmington.

On Thursday morning we left my dad's house and headed to see my mom in Myrtle Beach for a few days. Before we left town we stopped at the hospital to see one of our high school friends (she's a doctor, not a patient) who we were hoping to see on my birthday until her schedule interfered. It's always good to see her, but hopefully sometime we can arrange a visit that works with her time off so we can do more than catch up in the lobby for half an hour. Plus, she has three kids, and I'd love to meet them and have Will hang out with them as well.

The drive down to my mom's was very pleasant—pretty much a straight shot down 17 that only took a couple of hours. When we arrived, my mom was getting ready with the help of her in-home aide, so we decided to go out shopping at the outlet stores nearby to get some new shoes for Will and Julie. That took a couple of hours because 1) it took us forever to figure out where the shoe store was in this massive complex and 2) Will wanted to stop in a few other stores, including one that sold all the "As Seen on TV" stuff.

When we got back, my mom was ready to go out to dinner, so we took her to a place that has a hybrid chinese buffet/sushi buffet/hibachi grill. My expectations were pretty low, but it wasn't bad, including the sushi. What was really exciting was getting Will to try a bunch of new stuff, including the hibachi grill items. He got chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, and noodles, and he would try each ingredient one at a time, signaling with a big thumbs up after each one. He must be having a growth spurt or something too—he's always been a light eater, rarely finishing his kid-size meals, but recently he's been finishing everything, and he probably had the equivalent of two helpings for him at this meal.

After dinner we stopped by an ice cream place where one of my mom's friends/helpers works. He's also an uber driver, and since my mom hasn't been able to drive herself since she broke her leg last fall, she uses that service a lot, and that's how they met. He has turned into more of a helpmate for her, using Uber as the interface for the transactions even when they aren't strictly driving related. It was a little chilly (are we ever going to get out of winter to a proper spring before summer comes?), but we sat outside and had our ice cream, and my mom's friend came to chat with us for a little bit on his break.

The Friday of our visit to Myrtle beach was going to be the only full day we had at my mom's since we drove down on Thursday and were driving back to Atlanta on Saturday, and since we had already done so many activities and so much driving that week, I was in favor of a quiet day at home. But Will had other plans.

He lobbied hard to go to Wonderworks, a science-oriented kids playland located in the heart of Myrtle Beach's tourist area. It's housed in a giant upside down mansion, and even before he knew what it was he wanted to visit it (it's close to the Ripley's aquarium, which we visited last time we went to see my mom). When he found out it was a kids science place, that just doubled his enthusiasm. I really, really didn't want to go, but he was so excited that I relented. We headed out around noon, making a quick stop at Bojangle's for lunch.

We were there for nearly five hours, much of which was spent waiting in line. It was insanely crowded, likely because there were so many spring breaks going on in the southeast and a lot of people had come to Myrtle Beach for a vacation. Combine that with the cold, non-beach-friendly weather, and many of those families were looking for indoor activities. They had lots and lots of exhibits on different floors, but the big attractions were the experiences: a ropes course, a 4D movie, and laser tag.

We ended up doing all of those (although only Will and I did laser tab; Julie took my mom to sit outisde and have a snack), and each one had a wait time of 45 minutes or more. Will complained about it the first time, but we reminded him that this was just like Disney (which he badly wants to visit this year), and if he wanted to visit that park, he needed to figure out how to weather the lines without constantly complaining. He actually did better and better as the day went on, and by the time we go to laser tag (which was the last line of the day), he was pretty tolerable.

I was most iimpressed with his desire to do the ropes course, which had you walking on various rope and beam obstacles anywhere from 20 to 40 feet above the exhibit space below. I've always had a fear of heights at those distances (which I willed myself to overcome for the sake of being able to do this with Will), even abandoning a team-building ropes course in Cub Scouts when I was a kid because I was so terrified after the first obstacle. But Will was pretty fearless, and it was hard to keep up with him. There was one obstacle towards the end that unnerved him a little bit, but he did a good job of working through his fear and not freaking out.

For dinner we got cheesesteaks and had a movie night with Gabby, watching Despicable Me 3 (which I had somehow never seen). The next day we had lunch with Gabby and then headed back to Atlanta.

Since our busiest, most critical time of year has theoretically passed, I was hoping that when I came back to work last week after our week of travels to North and South Carolina it would be relatively calm. But that was not to be: I had meetings stacked on my calendar every day except Wednesday (at least four meetings a day, and sometimes as many as six).

And Wednesday didn't relieve any pressure either, since that was the day of one of our admittted student open houses where the entire staff works to engage with our visitors from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's always a fun day, and I really enjoy talking to prospective students and their families, but it's a long, exhausting day as well, and there's certainly no opportunity to get any other work done.

My meeting schedule isn't really any lighter this week, but I'm using all my spare time to get my inbox down to a reasonable number of emails (my inbox is essentially my to-do list—I don't move items to my archive folders until I've delegated or completed those requests). There luckily aren't a lot of projects that are due in the near future, but I have so many things that will need to be done by May or June that I know if I don't make progress on them every week they will creep up on me fast, especially with all the personal and business travel I have on the schedule for the next few months.

The weekend after we got back from our spring break travels was as busy as always. On Saturday we started the morning with a service project with the local alumni chapter of our alma mater with Trees Atlanta where we went to a park for a few hours and weeded, mulched, and watered several dozen small trees that had been planted by the organization last year. We've done a tree planting project with this organization with Will's Cub Scout troop in the past, but on Saturday he was the youngest kid by far, and he held up pretty well (and he really enjoyed getting to wear an orange safety vest when we were taking care of trees that were planted on a hill near a big highway).

In the afternoon we met my sister to look at the house she has rented for my mom (more on that later) and to have a joint birthday dinner. Mine was the first week of April, and my sister's is tomorrow, so we went out to dinner at a Mexican place near where my sister is to celebrate. It was one of those weird local-but-trying-to-be-a-national-franchise places with a huge menu that includes many non-Mexican dishes, but it was actually pretty decent. At the end of the meal they came out and sang us their in-house birthday song while my sister and I took turns wearing a gigantic sequin-adorned sombrero, which Will thought was hilarious.

Sunday Julie and I went to a concert, and because we had tickets to a preshow soundcheck mini-concert and Q+A session with the band, Will was in other people's care most of the day. He was at a friend's birthday party from 4-7, and then his babysitter picked him up, took him home, had dinner with him, got his homework done with him, and got him ready for bed. He always does really well without us, even though I know he misses us—he's just got such a big, outgoing personality and he really likes having new experiences with new people.

We're still looking for Will's organized sport after trying soccer and basketball in previous seasons, and we're hoping we may have found it: swimming. He has always loved the water, and there's a summer-only swim team at the outdoor pool on Emory's Clairmont campus that the only requirement for joining is that you can swim all the way across the pool without stopping.

Will has been taking sporadic lessons over the past couple of years from different members of the Emory swim team (they are sporadic in large part because of the combination of the limited availability of the Emory pool in the evenings and the demanding practice/meet schedule of the swim team), and although he still has a ways to go in terms of form, he's been really focused on meeting this requirement so he can swim this summer.

The schedule is a little daunting: four practices a week starting in May (and we need to attend at least three of them), and then to that schedule is added a weekly swim meet through the end of June. It will be a tough schedule to keep, especially given how much travel we'll be doing those two months, but I think we can make a decent go of it—if there's a sport Will could be motivated and excited about participating in, I want to do whatever I can to foster that.

In the past couple of weeks, Will has been telling us about the formation and growth of the Nature Lovers Club, a playground group formed with a few of his friends, the main project of which is building a "worm house" where worms can come up from the ground and have a safe, sheltered place to stay (my sense is this is all imaginary—they haven't caught any worms to put in the house or anything, and even if they did, it's just bulit on open ground, so the worms could tunnel back down).

There has also been a developing rivalry with the Video Game Club, a group of boys who prefer to stay inside playing video games instead of being outdoors. A few of Will's friends seem to be part of that group too, and it seems like mostly a harmless, playful rivalry to see who can attract more members.

That is, until today: when Julie picked up Will for his piano lesson (he's doing fantastic with those, by the way), a teach informed her that there had been an "incident" between the Nature Lovers Club and the Video Game Club: apparently a couple of the boys from the VGC were irritated that there were more people in the NLC, so they decided to knock down the worm house. As you might expect, the NLC didn't take this lying down, and fought back in defense of the worm house.

The teacher told us that Will didn't do anything wrong, even though he was involved in the scrum, and that it was the closest thing she's seen to a playground brawl during her time at the school (she told Julie they had to physicall intervene because the aggressive kids wouldn't listen to their commands to separate and stop fighting). There were several kids from both clubs involved, and a few of the aggressors got sent to the principal and could face some kind of suspension.

Will was surprisingly calm about this given how emotional his reactions can be. Even though he doesn't like fighting and violence, I think he was proud of himself and his friends for standing up to the instigators and protecting their shared project (and the imaginary worms who live in it).

A typically busy weekend: Will and Julie ran another 5K on Saturday morning while I was at my third Davidson service project of the week, painting a house with other alums for HouseProud Atlanta. Julie bought a few raffle tickets to support the program sponsoring the race, and she and Will made out like bandits: the $25 movie gift card more than covered what they spend on the tickets, but they also won a Braun electric toothbrush worth at least $100. Needless to say, Will has become very excited about toothbrushing time because of his new gadget.

In the afternoon Will helped me handwash my extremely dirty car, which was covered in a permanent pollen film when it rained (which didn't wash off the pollen, but instead helped it bond to the grime that was already on the car). Sunday we walked to dinner with Evie and her sister and dad, deviating from our normal routine of walking to Lucky's in Emory Village by meeting at Community Q instead (it was raining—of course it was, the day after I washed my car—so walking was a no-go), which they had never been to before. We followed that up with a quick trip to the ice cream store, a favorite tradition of Will's when we go to the Q.

Alright: the plan is for the rest of this week to be media review week, starting with the rebooted all-female Ghostbusters, which I caught when it was playing on some cable movie channel last week.

I know there was a lot of heated debate over this when it came out, and even though I have strong affection for the original and didn't really see why it needed to be remade, I went into it with a pretty open mind. But I barely made it past the first setpiece when they encounter their first apparition as a team (which was supposed to be analagous to the sequence in the library basement in the original movie—the "Get her!" scene) because of a blatant Pringles product placement that is both too obvious and lasts way too long.

This set a bad tone early in the movie, but there were much bigger issues with this movie—lack of cohesion between the three leads, no real plot to speak of, and overreliance on callbacks to the original (including cameos from all still-living former ghostbusters). It just wasn't a good or entertaining movie, and it didn't offer anything new to the franchise. It pretended like the events in the original never happened while constantly referencing them—it just didn't make any sense.

Given that we're a full generation removed from the original movie, it might have made more sense—and given the new actors a stronger foundation to stand on—if this crew had a true legacy relationship to the original (say, by having at least one member be a daughter or a niece of someone from the original), that might have worked better than trying to do an updated remake, and would have also made us feel immediately more connected to the characters and would have reduced the need for so much pointless backstory.

The first episode of season 2 of Westworld aired on Sunday night, and even though I loved the first season and have been waiting for its return for over a year, I have to say I was somewhat underwhelmed.

The main timeline/plotline starts immediatley after the events of the season 1 finale, but given how comfortable this series is with throwing us in the middle of a complicated situation and letting us figure it out through flashbacks and other clues, it might have made more sense to start it six months or a year after the beginning of the host revolution, letting us see where the main characters are at that point and then slowly unspooling the aftermath of season 1 from there.

I'm still dying to see where this show goes next, and I have high hopes for this season, so there's time to recover. But after such a long hiatus and such a big hype buildup, I expected this episode to be a lot more dynamic with some major new themes/characters/events to chew on, and it felt a lot more like a midseason take-a-breath-and-get-caught-up episode than the kickoff to a new season.

After working through Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy, I went back to entertainment non-fiction with Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, an oral history organized and compiled by James Andrew Miller.

If you have any interest in/affection for any epoch of this show, you'll probably find at least some parts of this book pretty interesting, as it features interviews with almost all significant actors, writers, and producers (those who are still alive, anyway) from the birth of the show through 2014.

The early years are the most interesting part, and not because I think the cast members from those first five years are sacred idols or anything (although it is hard to top Ackroyd/Belushi/Chase/Murray/Radner in terms of influence on pop culture and comedy)—it's just that during that era the people who created the show were still figuring out what it would become, and there was a lot more tension and turmoil behind the scenes.

By the time we get to later eras, even as early as the late 80s or early 90s, the book becomes a parade of the cast members from that period recounting what is essentially the same experience of getting chose for the show and being on the show that was recounted by the previous generation of cast members. By the time we get to the 2000s, it basically becomes an adoration party for Lorne Michaels, with no truly new stories to tell, just new people telling the same stories you've heard, at that point in the book, dozens of times before.

I've read a few of these pop culture oral histories, and it speaks to the power of New York's cultural impact that all but one or two are focused on some New York scene, whether it's the creation of MTV or a recounting of the indie music scene in the first decade of this century. This one was one of the most coherent from start to finish, but I probably would have been fine with the original version, which was published on the 30th anniversary of the show—the extra 100 or so pages added to cover the 10 years leading up to the 40th anniversary don't bring anything substantive to the narrative.

Earlier this week I went to see Alex Garland's Annihilation, a film based on a trilogy of novels (The Sourthern Reach trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer. You might not know his name, but if you're a fan of sci fi films, you've almost certainly seen his work: he was the screenwriter for 28 Days Later and Sunshine (both directed by Danny Boyle), and he also wrote and directed 2015's stunning Ex Machina, which featured the first major roles for Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleason (Poe Dameron and General Hux from the newest Star Wars trilogy) and Alicia Vikander (star of the latest Tomb Raider reboot).

I read the books once I found out Garland had chosen them as the subject of his second film as a director, and I was not overly impressed with them. Still, I was curious to see what Garland would do with the material—I trust his instincts enough to give him a chance to make something more coherent out of the world that VanderMeer created.

I was kind of surprised the movie was even still in theaters (it was released in February and has not made a huge splash at the box office despite having Natalie Portman in the lead role), and I was even more surprised that the screening had more than a couple of people on a Tuesday night at 7 p.m. I was hoping to be one of maybe five people at most, but there were probably at least 30 other people in the theater that night.

I've heard people complain about how distracting normal theater noises—people whispering to their companions, slurping a soda, or munching popcorn—is in A Quiet Place because the movie is so very quiet, and I have to say the same holds true for this film. There are a lot of empty spaces in the dialogue/score, and many scenes are whisper quiet even when the characters are talking to one another. There was a couple in front of me that clearly brought in their own trove of snacks (except for a large tub of popcorn), and although I appreciated them trying to minimize the distraction, they were eating for pretty much the entire film, and there were a couple of times when they were opening a new snack that I just wanted to tear it out of their hands and rip the packet open rather than the three minute long, millimeter by millimeter slow open that they were doing in a failed attempt to reduce the noise.

Anyway. Back to the movie.

I definitely liked it better than the books, and Garland did what I suspected he would do: he conflated the narratives and events from all three books into a single episode, and focused much more on the relationship between the Biologist (who was the closest thing the first book in the trilogy had to a protagonist) and her husband, a solder who goes into Area X and comes back a different person. I wonder how much the movie would have made sense to me without the context of the book, however—there were a lot of key backstory elements that were removed for the sake of expediency and clearning up the narrative.

In the books, there is a lighthouse and it's opposite, a spiral staircase going into the earth which play prominently in the narrative journey and in exploring the history of Area X. While the lighthouse is featured as a goal for the expedition in the movie, it is significantly altered from how it is used in the book. However, Garland does recreate that sense of deeper and deeper delving into the strange world of Area X by structuring the movie as a series of concentric circles, or as a descent down a narrowing spiral staircase (I can't remember all of the phases, but it's something like The Southern Reach, Area X, The Shimmer, The Lighthouse, etc.).

I don't know for sure how much I would like this film if I didn't have the backstory of the book and/or if I wasn't such a big fan of Garland's, and I probably need to watch it again to firm up my opinion. But at this point, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to folks who don't fall into at least one of those two categories, but given the unexpected success of A Quiet Place, it's not hard to imagine that if this film had caught the zeitgeist at a slightly different moment in time, it could have been the small budget, high concept sci fi/horror film that turned into an unexpected hit.

Fun but busy weekend. Friday afternoon was Will's piano lesson followed by our traditional movie night (the just-released-to-streaming Paddington 2, which we saw for free at a preview screening back in December). I went to the Atlanta United game early in the afternoon (they won 4-1, making seven straight games where they have been unbeaten, with all four goals coming in the second half), and while I was gone, Will and Julie focused on some of his homework assignments.

When I got back, we walked to Decatur for dinner and ended up at Victory Sandwich Bar, which Will enjoyed when we went a few weeks ago. We capped off the evening with a visit to Butter & Cream, a homemade ice cream shop right up the block. It was the first really warm, sunny day in I can't remember how long, and it was great to be out and about.

Sunday was another beautiful day, and we started with church, where they were doing the service where kids from the parish get to perform roles in the service that are normally for adults, including the readings, the sermon, and the eucharistic ministers. Will participated last year and was the chalice bearer (he gave people wine), and this year he handed out the eucharistic wafers (the bread). We went up to his side of the altar, and he did a really great job, clearly enunciating the words he was supposed to say as he gave us the bread.

As soon as we got home, we changed clothes and headed out to the Inman Park Festival, an enormous festival with food, arts and crafts, kid activities, and several music stages. We've been to this one once before, but it's been a while—probably since Will was three or four. Instead of taking the MARTA, which would have cost us $15 for our rides to and from our closest station, we parked at Ponce City Market and walked down the BeltLine to the festival, which only cost us $10 for five hours of parking and also let us spend more time outside.

The festival was great, and although Will was a little cranky on the way there, his mood quickly improved once we got some food in him. We sat near one of the stages and listened to the band while we ate (Will declared that the lead singer must be Lady Gaga because she had big sparkly boots). After that we walked all over the festival, which was enormous, and ended up with several purchases: a make-your-own candle for Will (kind of like sand art, but with wax pellets), a print of a firefly tree painting for me, a "Dragonfly Crossing" handmade yard ornament, a dinosaur balloon animal, and a couple of other things that I'm blanking on right now. Will and Julie also had King of Pops as a cool refresher/sugar rush before we walked back to Ponce City Market.

There's a public piano there on the level that leads out to the BeltLine, and Will really wanted to play it before we left. There was a crowd watching a girl tentatively pluck out a song when we got there, so we sat to wait our turn, thinking it would only be a couple of minutes. But then another girl—a much better player—sat down to play a song, and we decided to wait for her to do her song even though our meter was running out. But then, instead of doing the courteous thing and giving Will a turn after she played one song, she sat there for 15 minutes or so, playing 3-4 songs.

She finally left, and we had just enough time for Will to play the song he's been really fond of for the past couple of weeks (a farily complicated piece that involves using the pedals and changing hand positions frequently). He used my hat for donations from passers-by, and we snuck a dollar bill into it when he wasn't looking. He was very proud even though he knew it came from us. That was a pretty good day.

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