Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Can't Hardly Wait

The husband and I are preparing to embark on yet another trip to New Orleans this weekend. We went to NOLA last year this time as well and had a great time just hanging around, drinking, eating and relaxing amidst the festivities of Southern Decadence, so we figured why not go back again this year?

I think saying that we had a blast last year is a bit of an understatement. We went with no expectations of Southern Decadence, not knowing what to expect and not knowing anyone who had been. Turned out that a friend from college ended up going as well and we ended up spending a good amount of time with him catching up and catching the sites, but we also met quite a few new people to talk to and hang around with.

New Orleans is one of my favorite places to visit. It has a very unique quality to it, a certain charm that is hard to define until you are there. There's a real, distinct old world feel to the French Quarter (and several of the nearby neighborhoods) that meshes with the modern world just enough to feel familiar yet old. And for the most part the bars and stores and such don't cheapen that. Most of the residents relish the cities uniqueness instead of trying to bastardize it into a tourist trap from hell.

That's not to say there isn't a little bit of tourist trapping going on. There are quite a few restaurants in the Quarter that claim to be "Cajun" or "New Orleans Style" yet deliver bland substitutes of Creole/Cajun cuisine. It takes a bit of trial and error to find the good stuff, but once you do you won't regret the search.

This year should be just a tad bit different for us. Like I said, we had no expectation last year and ended up having a great time, so we obviously aren't going into this blind. But we've also got quite a few friends and acquaintances that are going this year, whereas last year we barely knew anyone. Part of the charm of SD, for me at least, was forcing myself out of my usually tight shell to be social and meet new people, but with so many people we know going this year, I'll have to make the extra effort to open up to new people as it seems likely that we'll have people we know everywhere we go. That should be fun though too: sharing something as unique as NOLA with good people you already know should make the whole experience more robust.

This trip is coming at a really good time for us as well. After the past couple months, we're both ready for a getaway, particularly one that we've both been looking forward to so much. A very good friend is travelling with us this time as well and staying with us in the condo we rented right in the French Quarter, which will give us a chance to really bond and hang out, something that we just don't get to do as much these days with our work schedules.

The weather report for NOLA is looking bleak for this weekend, but every vacation we've ever took has had a bleak weather forecast going in to the trip only to turn out to be either mostly nice or perfectly wonderful. Humidity is inevitable this time of year in Louisiana, so I'm not worried about that, but I suppose we'll just have to wait and see if this weekend brings the rain and if that rain will stop the people from partying in the streets still.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm Not Bored, But They Really Are That Long...

I mentioned a little while ago that I had started reading Game of Thrones and I had also started playing Fallout: New Vegas. In that post, I worried about the time investment of those books and games and pondered whether I'm getting to a point in life where that commitment wasn't realistic anymore. Essentially, I was worried I was too old to enjoy the kind of things I did as a kid.

I'm now almost finished with A Clash of Kings, the sequel to Game of Thrones, and am more than 20 hours in to Fallout: New Vegas, and am I extremely happy with both!

The difference between when I started the game and the book and now, I supppose, is that nostalgia kicked in somewhere. A love of long-form fantasy with twists and intrigue and a love for open, fleshed-out worlds packed full of stories and interesting tidbits to find. It also helps that the series of books and the F:NV are phenomenal products.

What George R.R. Martin has done so perfectly in this series of books is create characters that you feel for. You may not like the character, but you certainly have an opinion about them. You cheer for them or revile them, but you are never bored with the characters. They feel real. And the storytelling mechanic he uses is just great. Each chapter jumps between a different characters point of view, but the timeline never goes backward. You learn of new events happening to one character while following the adventures of another. All in all, it's very engrossing.

Fallout: New Vegas does so many things right so far that I can say my only true complaint is the inclusion of zombies. I HATE zombies in video games. Usually, their inclusion is enough to get me to stop playing a game altogether. But Fallout's don't bother me. In fact, I just helped out a charismatic pack of zombies pile into rocket ships and fly off to a highly radioactive area of the country. My character is that nice of a guy.

While F:NV was made by Obsidian (who also made some other great games, like Neverwinter Nights 2 and Dungeon Siege 3), the basis for the game comes from Bethesda (who made Oblivion), so the game still holds true to this grand scale of a huge world to explore with danger and mystery around every corner. The characters you meet are believable and the stories are still shocking to me, like when I found out an adorable town matron was responsible for selling one of the town guard's wife to slavery… then I hauled her off to the desert so the guard could kill her. Disturbing, but amazing!

I plan to keep on with the Song of Ice and Fire series, even if I have a feeling that'll keep my reading log full for the rest of the year, and I have every intention to keep plugging away in Fallout. Maybe that adventure-loving kid in me is still there, I just had to wake him up a bit.