Back Home — Andy Grammer

Having just moved to a new city, this song seems especially poignant. On the other hand, it is fabulously catchy and fun to play steering-wheel drums while dancing in the car. If you’ll forgive the abuse I’ve put my steering wheel through, you can enjoy this song about connections between friends that don’t fade when you go new places. Though my friends and I are scattered from Indiana to Texas, from Wisconsin to Tennessee, “no matter where we go, we’ll always find our way back home [to the Dome]”.

And, as per usual, the harmonies on the bridge are fantastic. Enjoy.

NYC Days 3 & 4 or The Time I High-Fived Jimmy Fallon and Nearly Got Frostbite

After a glorified nap of four hours, we were up and going again. A quick detour into McDonald’s for some breakfast then we all took the subway downtown to wait in the standby line for Jimmy Fallon.

We arrived at 5:54am and were numbers 11-15 in line. The number of standby people who get into the show changes each night, but the typical estimate was twenty so we were hopeful that everyone would get into the show.

Cold and hungry, we munched down our lukewarm McDonald’s and huddled for warmth. The line behind us grew longer and longer as time ticked by. Between the five of us we played “I’m going on a picnic” where four tried to determine what the rule was for things that could be brought.

I nearly lost friends with our last game of “I’m going on a picnic,” but eventually everyone figured it out. Some on their own and some through strongarm-ing those who knew. As the rulemaker, I probably enjoyed stumping my friends more than I should have.

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NYC Day 2 or Mood and the Hipster Coffee Shop

New Yorkers do not match the stereotypes of mean, busy people. Everyone we met offered helpful and kind directions. Three of us left the hotel to get downtown early in the morning to line up for Rush tickets for Chicago at the Ambassador Theater. We were the first to arrive, but felt strange loitering at the entrance to the theater. We jumped across the street to a hipster coffee place. All of the baristas wore a form of fedora/hat/thing. As I am wont to do, my Earl Grey tea spilled over and boiled my hand. We walked back over to the theater and waited behind two other girls. We played whatever games we could think of to pass the time and a misheard phrase that originally was perfectly normal became “putter-on-the-pancreas.” Yeah, I don’t know either. We were sleep deprived.

Our sleep deprivation worked and we got five orchestra seats for that night’s showing of Chicago. Tickets clutched tightly to our chests, we met the rest of the group in the NYC public library while touring the traveling exhibit of children’s books throughout history. The original dolls that inspired Winnie the Pooh were on display and a display about the history of Harry Potter made us feel old. The exhibits were inventive and clever. One was a stylized four-poster bed stood up on its end to showcase superhero comics read by flashlight under the covers.

Starved, we found a food truck, and I ate a brilliant lamb gyro in Bryant Park. I only shared a little bit with my shorts. Most went into my mouth. Hankering for something sweet, we popped into Tony di Napoli’s restaurant for a piece of cheesecake and mousse to split.

Next stop: Mood. Home of three trillion types of fabric, the Mood fabric store also supplies the television show Project Runway with its fabric. The most fashionable of the five of us got herself some fabric to fashion a shirt from.

The burger joint that we had heard good things about was closed for a private party so we enjoyed a yummy Vietnamese meal before show time. Chicago was very well done, and I think everyone enjoyed it. While making our way back to the hotel, we accidentally got on the express train and went at least six stops past the one we wanted before we were able to get off and backtrack. As soon as we got back to the hotel, we fell into bed exhausted but satisfied after a full day.

ND Takes NYC or That One Time We All Read Divergent

Twelve hour drive. Five girls. Spring break. Cue the fanfare. Instead of going to Punta Cana with the rest of the Notre Dame senior class, four other girls and I stuffed supplies for a week into my sedan. Our mission: New York City. The first leg of the trip was six hours to Pittsburg and was full of tolls as we got used to five people crammed into a car. After spending the night at one of the girl’s homes and being pampered with food, puppies, and love, we left for the city.

In preparation for the trip, every driver made her own 5-6 hours long playlist on Spotify. I downloaded them all offline onto my phone so that each driver could listen to her own music while on the road sans cellular data usage. Juanes serenaded us for a good portion of the drive although the car reserved the right to veto songs (re: Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber). In addition to learning each other’s musical tastes, we had two copies of Veronica Roth’s Divergent begin the rounds.

Our hotel was in Queens, and unfortunately the only way the GPS knew how to get us there was to drive straight through the middle of Manhattan. As soon as we discovered this, we switched drivers so that I was in the hot seat even though I had done my shift the day before. It was incredibly stressful to drive, but it was for the best. Otherwise I would have been sitting in the backseat, gripping my seat with white knuckles and praying.

We checked into the hotel a little after four and found ourselves in an itty-bitty room with two queen beds and about five square feet of open space. Instead of debating how we were going to sleep five people in the room, we changed from driving clothes into stylish outfits and sought the subway.

Due to our main organizer’s fantastic foresight, the hotel she had chosen was only two blocks down from the nearest station. We rode the purple line from 40th St. Lowery’s St. Until I said it aloud and was laughed at, I genuinely thought the station was Fortieth Saint Lowery’s Street. It was not. 40th Street – St. Lowery’s Street. Can you say Notre Dame problems?

With moderate difficulty, we rode the subway to Central Park. We had a delightful walk along the rain soaked pathways, happy to be out of the car and breathing unrecycled air. The Doctor Who fans in us made several appearances as we searched rocks and bridges to find the ones featured in the traumatizing Angels Take Manhattan episode.

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Part of our mission in New York City was to experience as many cultures as we could find. Google and Siri were godsends for the trip, and with their help, we found Tina’s, a Cuban hole in the wall. We demolished yucca chips and secret dipping sauce courtesy of our waitress until Christine, our planner’s cousin who lived in the city, found us. Continue reading

Around the World in Five Hours

21 at Disney: | day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | day 5 |

While we may not have traversed quite the entire world, my friend and I did explore all that Walt Disney World’s Epcot had to offer this past August. We decided to split the park in half. The morning was for rides while the afternoon would be devoted to exploring the country pavilions.

As had become routine, the first steps of the morning were toward the FastPass dispensers. A percussion group pleasantly disrupted our headlong flight toward tickets. They were dressed as janitors and rolling around metal trashcans. A closer look revealed the name “Jamminators.” The impromptu drum line was a fantastic way to wake up in the morning, and we danced and clapped along.

The Jamminator performance took place out under the hot Florida sun, and I could feel my skin burning so a sidetrip to the shade was required. We were nearly out of sunscreen after the entire week — we had gone through two spray cans and had a small amount of lotion left— but applied the last dregs with gusto.

As part of our sojourn indoors, we came across what looked like pods on stands that people had been harnessed into with their feet hanging out. What we discovered (after waiting in a rather long line) was a design-your-own roller coaster ride! Rose and I whipped up a monster that (sadly) obeyed physics and included two upside down loops. We slipped our shoes off, and were strapped into the seats. The giant screen/harness/simulator came down over our heads and we were off.

Despite giggling earlier at the shouts and screams of the people riding ahead of us, we gladly joined them as we went upside down in the simulator. We had one more simulator ride while the sunscreen dried (read: while we were enjoying the shade), which was a storm simulator. It was more educational than exhilarating, but a few people got splashed in the face, which is always entertaining when it happens to someone else. 

The next goal of the morning was Mission: SPACE. We snagged a pair of FastPasses, and headed to Epcot’s landmark: Spaceship Earth. While not one of my favorite rides, I had one of the most amazing moments from the entire week in line.

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A Wink from the Cap’n

21 at Disney: | day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | day 5 |

Day four brought us to the Magic Kingdom. We were able to sneak into the park Sunday night and ride some of the more popular rides but there were several rides that we wanted to hit in the daylight. Daylight is defined by midday after a long night of amazing, blessed sleep. We strolled into the park around eleven and rode a few rides before munching on our packed lunches. While Tiana gave hugs and smiles to little girls lined up ten yards behind us, we were greeted by Mayor Weaver off of Main Street USA. He wasn’t interested in sharing any of our salt and vinegar kettle chips, but that was fine by me. I wasn’t too interested in sharing my favorite salty snack. Dehydration was an issue with the glaring sun, but with Rose’s Reliv Innergize I was able to munch my chips without fear.

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Amidst our strolling around, we were lucky enough to land in Tortuga just in time to see the Captain. Small children with painted faces waited eagerly for Captain Jack Sparrow, while his accomplice Mack dithered on about how Captain Jack got too much of the glory. I was more distracted than the rest of Mack’s captive audience and saw Captain Jack sneaking out of a hidden door off stage. Nudging Rose, I pointed him out and he noticed. Captain Jack winked at me and put a finger to his lips. Obediently, I went silent so as not to alert the rest of the audience. He proceeded onto the stage to teach his new crew about his tried and true method of sword fighting: Continue reading

When Yeti Attack

21 at Disney: | day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4day 5 |

Day 3 of our Disney adventure dawned, and we rolled out of bed, the adrenaline for a new adventure overpowering the developing bone deep exhaustion. We marched into Animal Kingdom, two among two hundred who had arrived before opening. First thing on the agenda: get FastPasses for Animal Kingdom’s new (to us) roller coaster: Everest. Our next item on the to do list was to get in line for a Kilimanjaro Safari through the giant wildlife reserve on the property. In hours of likely unnecessary research, it was recommended we go on the safari first thing in the morning so that the animals would still be eating and visible.

We picked the best time to go because, as we pulled into the giraffe area, our guide informed us that the baby giraffe was out. This was only her second day in the enclosure and we were lucky enough to get close and see her. We also had an interesting encounter with some rhinos who had decided that they were going to cross the area. We were slowed down to a crawl as we followed two large rhino bottoms as they ambled along the path. Our luck continued because we were able to see the male lion snoozing on the rocks closer to the trail taken by the caravans. Our guide was shocked that he slept so closely when on a typical day he rested much farther back from the road. I can’t speak for Rose, but I know that I was envious of his snoring frame.

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After the safari, we set off to climb Everest—through the FastPass lane. I had warmed up to roller coasters after not dying the previous day at Hollywood Studios. Due to the aforementioned hours of Disney research when I was procrastinating my schoolwork, I uncovered one of the secrets of Expedition: Everest; it goes backwards. I gleefully revealed this tidbit of information not when we handed in our FastPasses, not when we pulled the bar down across our laps, nor when we started riding up the side of mountain. When the sounds of a Yeti ripping up the tracks sounded overhead and with a devilish grin, I shared my newest joy. We screamed loudly enough that you could probably hear us all the way in DinoLand.  Continue reading