“Star Wars and the Power of Costume” at the EMP

It’s been over six years since I last donned a Halloween costume. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’ve gotten too old for that kind of thing. Or maybe it’s because I’m just too lazy these days to put that much thought into an outfit.

Or maybe it’s because I’m sure will never, ever be able to top this sexy, scruffy, scoundrel-chic masterpiece of a Halloween ensemble from 2009:

Dan Solo
“Dan Solo.” (Settle down, people. I’m married.)

When I was in Seattle last spring, I had a chance to take in the “Star Wars and the Power of Costume” exhibition at the EMP. The show featured an exciting array of original costumes from across the Star Wars saga, along with some memorable wardrobe pieces from a few other fantasy-cinema classics. It was awesome.

Of course I was totally geeking out in the presence of these iconic costumes – outfits actually worn on-screen by the likes of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader. I mean, you could practically smell Chewbacca’s enchanting Wookiee musk. And what a thrill to meet the dark, helmeted gaze of Boba Fett as he stares you down like the Empire’s put a price on your head.

Boba Fett
Indulging my “Fettish”

So naturally, I took a lot of pictures, the highlights of which I’m now happy to share with you here (and please forgive my sub-par phone photography). Hopefully they’ll give you a sense of just how sweet this exhibit was, and help you appreciate what incredible works of art these costumes really are.

And who knows, maybe this post will inspire me to up my Star Wars costume game for Halloweens to come.

Happy Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you.

Sand people
Tusken Raiders (aka “Sand People”)

A good outfit for choir practice.


TIE pilot
TIE fighter pilot

There are clubs in New York where this look would totally work.


Imperial officer uniform, Luke’s X-Wing flight suit

Apparently those Empire guys were giants.



“Look, sir. Tourists!”


Leia bounty
Leia’s bounty hunter disguise

“Someone who wants to have your son even though he’ll grow up into an angsty, obsessive emo-guy who will abandon his Jedi training for a path to the Dark Side, fall in with the evil First Order regime, wreak bloody havoc across the galaxy, and eventually murder you in cold bloo … I mean, someone who loves you.”


Leia slave
Leia’s slave bikini

I feel like this one would eventually transition from “costume” to regular beach wear.



I could just quit manscaping. No costume needed.


Han Solo

Dan or the mannequin: Who wore it better? (Answer: Harrison Ford. Always.)


R2-D2 (not sure why C-3PO’s cropped out)

OMG. Totally the droid I was looking for.


Dan Vader
Darth Vader (really wish this one had come out better)

I’ve got mad Force-choke skills.


And here are some highlights from the other films featured in the exhibit.


Proton Pack
Proton pack and ghost trap

The Princess Bride:

Princess Bride
Inigo, Buttercup, Westley
Six fingers
Count Rugen’s glove

I do not have six fingers on my left hand. I do, however, have two belly buttons. (Childhood surgery. Long story.)


The Wizard of Oz:

Wicked Witch of the West’s hat

On loan from Christine O’Donnell.


Witch Guard, Cowardly Lion

Again, I feel like I could pull off the Lion look with minimal costuming.


And finally, Labyrinth:


RIP David Bowie.



When It’s Time to “Lego” of Your Stuff

An Imperial AT-ST walker. I call her “Legsy.”

As I mentioned in a recent postMike and I are relocating to New York City later this year. This will be a huge transition in any number of ways, but surely among the most jarring will be the dramatic loss of space that awaits us. We fully expect that after trading in our sprawling, 1,800 square-foot Seattle palace, we’ll be squeezing into a cozy little shoebox somewhere in the five boroughs. It won’t be easy, but we’re resigned to the realities of NYC apartment-living, and we’ll adjust.

In preparation for the big move, we have begun the preliminary purging of stuff, sifting through drawers, cupboards, shelves, and closets for anything unwanted and easily discarded. The prospect of lugging all of our crap cross-country has motivated us to do as much slimming down as possible. And of course, if we hope to actually fit into the new place, this downsizing will be essential. But in spite of having already sold or donated dozens of books and DVDs, piles of clothes and shoes, and numerous other household sundries, we still feel nowhere closer to our goal-weight in stuff. We’re beginning to accept the reality that to achieve this goal, when the time comes, some tough decisions will have to be made. 

Which brings me to the subject of this post: My Legos. 

Among my most geeky, but treasured possessions is a modest collection of Lego Star Wars ships. You’ve already met Legs, but allow me to introduce you to the rest of fleet:

The TIE interceptor.
“Slave I” (Boba Fett’s ride).
The B-wing starfighter (docked).
B-wing in “flight.”
And the rest!

Sweet collection, right?

Anyway, the first time Mike visited my old bachelor pad, this nifty array – on proud display in the living room – was among the first things he noticed (along with a badass pair of working lightsabers). I’m sure it was a curious surprise, but if he was at all troubled by a grown man showing off his collection of Legos to a first-time visitor, he didn’t let on. He would later confess that although this gave him an “interesting” first impression, he was reassured by all the photos of family and friends also on display. “Oh, I get it. He’s not some weird, closed-off sociopath with a toy fetish. He’s just a dork.” (I prefer “Dork Vader,” actually.)

When Mike and I moved in together, it was decided that the Legos had to go. It wasn’t that Mike had any particular aversion to displaying toy spaceships in our living room (the decision was mutual, he assured me). It was just a question of space. The new apartment wasn’t that big, and with the merging of all our stuff, there wouldn’t be anywhere to put the Legos. So, solemnly, I disassembled the fleet, collected its pieces in a drawer, and placed them in the closet for their indefinite exile. 

We’ve since moved into our current, much bigger place, but it’s taken me quite a while to find the motivation to reassemble the ships. It’s a time-consuming and surprisingly painstaking process. I mean really, there must be thousands of pieces involved:

“Ages 8 and up” my foot.

But I was spurred into action when, after the decision to move was made, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to keep my Legos. We’ll have no room to display them in our new place – that’s a given. But storage space, too, will likely be a precious commodity for us. True, the sets don’t take up that much space, and their weight, in terms of an apartment’s worth of cargo, is negligible. But when your decisions on what to keep and what to discard are measured down to the individual coffee mug, every little item counts. So I’ve decided it’s time to let them go. Sure, it was a tough call, but this was really only a trial-run for the bigger, tougher ones that lie ahead. I’m just trying to teach my self how to “Lego” of my things. 

So why, if I’m not going to keep my Lego fleet, did I take the time to rebuild it? Well, for one thing, it was easily the funnest way to organize a drawer overflowing with all those tiny, unsorted Lego pieces. I mean, if I’m giving them away (and I’m just sayin’, I know a few kids who are gonna be psyched), it’s probably best to have them arranged into their respective sets, no? But also, I just wanted to give the fleet one last “hurrah” before we part ways. This was a chance for me to take ’em out on a critical final mission: Allowing me to indulge in some nostalgic, Star Wars-geeky playtime. And now that I’ve had my fun, and taken plenty of pictures, this silly little blog-tribute is my way of saying goodbye.

It’s been easy for us to become attached to our stuff. But in the end, it’s only stuff. And next to our dear friends and beloved city, leaving our possessions behind will be the easy part. But by re-building these Lego sets, I’ve been able to build on the countless memories that I will bring with me to New York. The Legos will forever reside among my Seattle-memory touchstones, and whenever I think of them, I’ll be thinking back on my time here. And with this reassurance in mind (and now that I’ve gone and gotten all sappy about Legos), I see that it’s time, and I’m ready to let them go. 

But I’m keeping the lightsabers:

Ben Folds Live


I never saw the Beatles in concert. It’s a stunning oversight, I know. But tickets were always hard to come by, what with the Fab Four permanently disbanding a decade before my birth and all. Now the only way I’ll ever get to hear the Beatles playing Beatles songs is by listening to their albums. Granted, the fact that Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper are always just the click of a “play” button away is no small consolation. But somewhere in the world there’s a sixty-year-old version of me who can actually tell people, “I once saw John, Paul, George, and Ringo do their thing live.” How can I not envy that person?

That’s one of the great privileges of experiencing live music. Even the best recordings, however polished or pristine, are only artifacts – preserved evidence of moments past. But a live performance is the moment. It’s an event that closes the distance between music makers and music lovers, turning once-remote listeners into first-hand witnesses. It’s a real-life experience where memories are recorded as much by the senses as by any camera or microphone. And it’s a chance to say, long after your favorite performer has taken their final bow, “I was there.”

One artist keenly attuned to the magic of these live-music moments is an ivory-tickling idol of mine named Ben Folds.


I first saw Ben Folds Five play in the spring of 2000, during their last tour before splitting up later that year. They were easily my favorite band back then, and I still consider Mr. Folds one of the finest pop-musicians out there. Needless to say, it was a huge thrill to see them play. And though I managed to catch another four of his solo shows over the next decade, it was always a special privilege to be able to say I saw Ben Folds back in his “Five” days. I felt like I’d witnessed a bit of 90s pop-music history, because, that’s right, I was there.

Likewise, Ben Folds Five played an important role in Dan-history, coming along at an especially pivotal moment in my life. I bought my first BF5 CD in early 1998, during my senior year in high school. I was your typical shy, awkward teenager full of adolescent angst and confusion. But I was also growing into a more open, more aware individual that year. It was a crucial period of self-discovery and personal awakening. Yup, that was the year I realized I was a gay guy. And this sweet new CD, Whatever And Ever Amen, was its non-stop soundtrack.

Whatever And Ever Amen.jpg

Of course, Ben Folds Five weren’t the reason I came out as gay. But my instant affinity for the group reflected a new facet of my emerging identity. They were the first band I’d discovered entirely on my own, signaling a newly independent and daring shift in my musical tastes. Where my prior preferences had been relatively tame (that’s tame, with a “t”, friends), BF5 were loud, smart-alecky, and did just enough cussing to make me feel like a total badass when I listened to them. Their catchy, piano-driven “punk rock for sissies” was an exciting new sound for the newer, edgier (but forever geeky) me.

Ben Folds Five split up soon after that, but twelve years later, the trio has reunited for a new album and tour. So when they made a stop in Seattle earlier this month, I got to relive the thrill of seeing them play live.

Their set, though featuring a bit of the new stuff, consisted mostly of songs from their late-90s heyday. It was a great show, with a nice blend of nostalgia and in-the-moment musical bliss. Indeed, even though I found myself drifting happily back to 1998 for much of the night, Mr. Folds has an uncanny knack for keeping his audience present for the here-and-now moments that make live performances so magical.

There’s nothing new about a good ol’ fashioned audience sing-along. But where some performers might simply encourage this kind of participation, Ben Folds relies on it. Take, for example, the BF5 classic “Army” – a song largely defined by its robust horn section. Instead of cutting this brass-heavy number from the three-man band’s set-list, Folds simply enlists the eager voices in his audience to fill the void. At the key moment, Maestro Ben gives his cue, and a thousand-person chorus erupts with a boisterous and surprisingly spot-on counterpoint of “bah-dap-baahs,” delivering the most rousing moment of the entire show.

This clever audience-as-horns bit goes back at least as far as Folds’s 2002 solo tour, and it has since become a staple of his live shows. But apart from the expected delights of a given concert, it’s the more spontaneous moments that really make each show unique and interesting. At this last BF5 show, it was things like the band’s impromptu, tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Reunited.” Or the amusing moment when Folds blanked on his lyrics mid-song and had to slowly backtrack to the preceding verse (rather than bullshitting his way through, as he confessed to often doing). And past surprises for me have included a fun cover of this 80s classic, a sweet onstage cameo by Moby, and a killer duet with one-time tourmate Rufus Wainwright.

But if there’s any one thing that draws me to a Ben Folds concert, it’s the piano. Folds may be a fine singer, and an exceptional songwriter, but the man is a freaking brilliant pop-pianist. As a quasi-passable player myself, I feel like I have a little extra appreciation (and no small amount of envy) for his ridiculous piano chops. When I see him play live, I find myself mesmerized by his dancing fingers, watching them bounce from graceful arpeggios to layered glissandos to full-bodied, key-smashing chords. I stand completely in awe of the man’s formidable talent, entranced by each deftly pounded keystroke. And I only snap out of it when Folds cuts out with his signature post-game sign-off: hurling the piano stool clear across the stage and nailing the baby grand squarely in its 88-tooth grin. It’s a final flash of rowdy, carefree showmanship – a piano man’s answer to the guitar-smashing rockers of yore – and it effing rules.

A sweet commemorative Frisbee I scored back in ’08

I’ve now seen Ben Folds in concert a total of six times, and counting. Maybe that’ll impress a few folks thirty years from now, but I’m not holding my breath that BF5 will be remembered as my generation’s Beatles. Nevertheless, for an artist safely regarded as one of my personal favorites, I’ve checked the “I was there” box, and then some. (I was even in the audience for the version of “Philosophy” that appears on the Ben Folds Live album. Check it out!) But bragging rights aside, the reason I do my best to catch Ben Folds whenever he’s in town is that he consistently rewards me with fantastic performances. I’ll always have his albums to listen to, and his songbooks live perpetually by my piano’s side. And as long as he’s the guy who puts on a terrific show, I’ll be the guy looking to score tickets. Because each live performance is a unique experience for which there is no substitute, and the memories of having beenthere are priceless.


I’m Baaaaack!

Greetings, friends! Just wanted to let you all know that, after another lengthy hiatus, I’m back to blogging. Excitement, she wrote!

A lot’s been going on since I last posted. For instance, there was this one night in November where same same-sex marriage was legalized in THREE MORE STATES (including my home state of Washington). That brings the total to nine, plus D.C., and counting. **High fives!** Also that night, we re-elected this guy.* So yeah, wins all around.

And perhaps most notably for Mike and me, there’s been our big decision big decision to move to New York City later this year (more on that later).

Oh yeah, also while I was away, this happened:

AA Degree.jpg
And a 3.98 GPA to boot. Not too shabs.

Anyway, I have a lot more to share, and a four-day weekend just begging to be filled with blog time, so stay tuned, folks. We’re gonna have some fun.

It’s great to be back!

—- —-

*Significant for a number of reasons, of course, but the presidents-nerd in me would be remiss if he didn’t point out that this is the first time in almost 200 years that three consecutive presidents have been elected to more than one term. History rules.

Regina Spektor at the Paramount

Regina Live

I saw Regina Spektor in concert for the first time back in 2009 at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. Ever since, that performance has ranked high among my all-time favorite shows by a popular musician. I straight-up adore Regina Spektor, and if only I were heterosexual, and not madly in love with this guy, I would totally make it my life’s mission to woo and marry her. She is a delightful performer who seems genuinely delighted to be on stage. And, as you might imagine, girlfriend’s got some serious chops as a pianist, vocalist, and composer of music. There’s really nothing not to love about her.

The one thing missing from that otherwise outstanding show three years ago was Mike. Like so many things of entrancing beauty, I feel Miss Spektor’s music is best enjoyed in the company of one’s true love. (I know. Barf). I take full credit for eventually turning Mike on to her music, but at this early-ish point in our relationship, she had yet to take hold.

Fast-forward to last week, and we find Mr. Curato gleefully humming tunes like “On the Radio” and singing along with “Us” as he purchases our tickets to Regina’s latest show at the Paramount. He’d fallen for her at last, and was now coming with me to see her. Mission accomplished.

I’ll spare you a long, wordy review of the performance itself, except to say that Regina was as delightful as ever. She was in top musical form, and seemed to be truly enjoying herself and all the affection from her doting audience. She played every song I was hoping to hear (well, almost), and there were more that a few “I’m so happy to be here with the person I love” moments. (I know. More barf). And despite Mike’s being stuck behind a big-haired, busy-headed gal, and my being stuck next to an annoyingly fidgety tween, the view from our seats was terrific. We even spotted the lovely Kimya Dawson kickin’ it in the audience (the opening act had been the lead guitarist for the The Moldy Peaches), so that was big bonus thrill for us.

So yes, all in all, it had been a lovely and satisfying evening of music. I haven’t been much of a concert-goer lately, so it’s always a pleasure when the ones I do make it to prove to be truly worthwhile. And I feel particularly lucky to have such a willing and musically compatible partner in Mike. It really makes the experience that much sweeter.

Now, a video clip from Regina’s 2009 Seattle show. Enjoy!

Happy Doughnut Day!

Hey there, folks! Do you know what today is? It’s my favorite holiday: National Doughnut Day!


Like I needed another excuse – or any excuse – to swing by Top Pot Doughnuts (an institution to which I pay homage with the old-timey spelling of the word “doughnut”).

As those who know me well may tell you, I have a bit of a reputation as a doughnut connoisseur (I may or may not be known in certain circles as “Uncle Donut”). So if you’re looking for appropriate gift suggestions, I think this book would make a perfect addition to my library. Thank you.

Now, I’m off to grab a Maple Old Fashioned, which should tide me over until my lunchtime Blueberry Glazed, which will get me through to 3 p.m. – the Doughnut Hour.

Anyway, I hope that you, too, are able to get out and celebrate this special day with your friends and loved ones.

Happy Doughnut Day to you all!

Seattle = Emergency Dispatch Nightmare: Impressions from a First-Time Visitor

There’s really no better way to enjoy the city you call home than to do so in the company of a first-time visitor. What better excuse to indulge in all the local delights and quirky trappings of your burg than to show them off to an out-of-towner? New guests can offer refreshing insights into what it is that makes your city special, and renew your appreciation for a place you’d nearly forgotten how to enjoy:

Curious visitor: “Why’s that wall caked in gum?”

Proud local: “Because Seattle!”

Yeah. This place rules.

Last week, Mike and I had the pleasure of playing host to our dear friend Belinda, who was visiting the Emerald City for the first time. By all accounts, her stay with us was a big success. The weather was freakishly pleasant, traffic was uncharacteristically obliging, and we didn’t run out of toilet paper once (wins all around). We took in all the must-see sights, enjoyed some of our favorite local eateries, and snapped a bunch of great photos:

I don’t photograph well in the morning.
Honey Bucket
Nothing but the finest for our house guests.
The rent-a-car folks were PISSED about their vintage Beetle.
Floating houses? The future is now!
Prepped for a day of beauty at the spa. Or was it a chocolate factory tour?

It was a real treat to witness Belinda’s reactions as she took in the sights and, perhaps more importantly, the flavors of Seattle. There was, of course, plenty of basking in the scenic splendor that surrounds our city. Belinda seemed particularly impressed by the rows of snow-capped peaks flanking the city, noting that our home state’s Green Mountains would be mere foothills in their midst:

Mt. Rainier. For perspective, it’s 80 miles away in this shot.

And Belinda learned that when it comes to iconic landmarks, Seattle’s not all Space Needles and fish markets. We also have this:

Pink Elephant
Doubling as Seattle’s gay Republican HQ.

But let’s not kid ourselves: This city’s real attractions come in dessert form. I would be lying if I told you most of our itinerary wasn’t planned around visits to places like this:


And this:

Top pot

And not to mention this, and this.

For such a health-conscious city, Seattle is quite the dessert mecca. As a longtime resident of this Bermuda Triangle of sweets, all I can say is, thank goodness for its many steep hills. “No wonder you’re all so fit,” Belinda observed as I put away my eleventh doughnut. “These hills are just brutal.” Word.

Anyway, one of Belinda’s more spot-on observations about Seattle came from her experience as an emergency-services dispatcher. As someone who routinely directs first responders to emergencies, she’s developed a keen sense of workable traffic patterns. And apparently, there are one or two kinks in the layout of our fair city:

If you stare at it long enough … you might get a migraine. (photo credit)

Unlike, say, Manhattan, with its rigid, numerically ordered grid, Seattle’s street plan is anything but straightforward. If you ask me, it’s more like an Escher drawing, or one of those webs spun by spiders on crack. I’ll spare you the wonky details, but let’s just say that to the unschooled visitor, these streets can get pretty disorienting pretty fast. To quote Belinda’s professional assessment, “this place is ONE BIG CLUSTERFUCK.”

Okay, maybe those weren’t her exact words. But she did point out that this city is “full of emergency-services nightmares.”

As we zipped across our sprawling cityscape, Belinda couldn’t help but marvel at the confidence with which Mike and I navigated this jumbled maze of thoroughfares. How was it possible, she wondered, that we could find our way to cross-town destinations without the aid of GPS, or some kind of celestial navigation? Fortunately, Mike and I are seasoned Seattle veterans who’ve been working this crazy jigsaw puzzle for years. I suppose our ability to navigate the city with relative ease is one of those things we now take for granted.

This is not to say we don’t hit our fair share of snags around town. There are times, for example, when just getting home can be a bit of an ordeal. You see, while Seattle is not without imagination when it comes to naming its streets:

Not pictured: Ogre Boulevard and Gremlin Lane.

One sometimes senses that they’re not even trying:

Not pictured: the actual city of Bellevue.

This in-no-way-confusing intersection is where you’ll find Mike’s and my apartment building (you’re welcome, internet stalkers). It’s tucked away in a relatively quiet corner of our neighborhood, and, as Mike recounted to Belinda, it often requires careful explanation:

Taxi driver: “Where to?”

Mike: “The corner of Bellevue, Bellevue, and Bellevue, please.”

Driver: “No such corner, wise guy.”

Mike: “Dude. I think I know where I live.”

And so begins the comedy routine that is describing our address to locals and visitors alike. Belinda was right – God help us in an emergency.

But thankfully, Belinda’s stay with us was emergency-free. It fact, the entire visit was just about perfect. I’m confident her first impression of Seattle blew away all expectations, and hopeful that a few days with the city’s two funnest gays left her eager to return soon. But until that day comes – thanks to Belinda’s own expert observations – Mike and I can rest easy knowing that if ever there is an emergency, we’ll be pretty well effed.

Thanks for coming, B!

200 Miles in an Ice Cream Truck

Have you ever been on an overnight road trip with your boss? I mean, there must be people do it all the time, right? It’s a not-unheard of demand for any number of professions. But last weekend, on a 24-hour work trip to Portland, Oregon, this was a rather memorable first for me.

I work as a part-time branch associate for a smallish community bank. It’s not really the type of job one might associate with road trips and overnight travel. The branch is an easy five blocks from my apartment. Most of my workday is spent at a teller station about as sprawling as a phone booth. And the farthest I usually travel on the job is to the Starbucks on the next corner.

But an overnight stay was called for last weekend, as the company was holding its annual employee-awards gala at the Portland Hilton. My boss, Stacey, was up for two big awards that evening, so even though no paid time was allotted for the trip, the presence of her staff was forcibly coerced gently encouraged.

Naturally, any reservations I may have had about devoting the better part of my weekend to an unpaid work function were allayed by the promise of a free dinner. And Stacey generously sweetened the deal by putting each of us up in the hotel at her own expense. It also didn’t hurt that the “City of Roses” is a handsome town, and always a fine place to visit.

The night played out as only a gathering of hard-partying bankers could. Awards ceremonies may be invariably tedious, but open bars and chocolate cake will always help to dull that pain. People-watching with a table full of tipsy colleagues never fails as an amusing way to pass the time (and never, ever devolves into catty critiques of the hairdos and formal wear of intra-company rivals). There was plenty of drunken reveling when Stacey won the “Manager of the Year” award. And afterward, our team made its way to an elementary-school-turned-brewpub to drown the remainder of our night in (surprisingly not-awful) raspberry-flavored beer.

I rode down to Portland that day with Stacey and her husband. It was an uneventful, but well-soundtracked three hours in their cushy SUV. But arrangements for the next day’s drive home were a tad less conventional. While the hubby would be driving solo back to Seattle, the boss and I needed to swing by another branch to pick up the truck … the ice cream truck, that is.

I work for a bank that glories in its un-banklike quirkiness. Our branches are designed to resemble inviting hotel lobbies, and are referred to as “cafes.” Cash and receipts aren’t so much handed to customers as they are served on polished-wood platters with a fancy chocolate coin on the side. We offer complimentary espresso, sweets, and free internet access to anyone who walks through the door. And we regularly host local merchants and organizations in need of promotional-event space (“What’s that? You want to set up a professional dog-grooming station in the middle of our lobby? You bet!”).

We also have an ice cream truck. It’s one of the bank’s more deliciously ingenious marketing tools, used to dispense free frozen treats at picnics, parades, and any number of other bank-sponsored events. The truck is shared by a handful of the bank’s Washington State branches, and for the weekend of the awards gala, it was Stacy’s and my duty to retrieve it from Vancouver (WA) and drive it back to Seattle. Fun! Right?

Too bad a terrible glitch would turn the sweet promise of this on-the-road adventure into bitter disappointment on wheels. Normally, of course, you’d expect a three-hour drive in this particular SUV (sweet-utility vehicle) to be a nonstop joyride of frozen delights; a 200-mile, sugar- and cream-fueled jaunt down the Häagen-Dazs Highway. And, had the truck’s freezer been fully functional that day, I suppose this would have been the case.

But the truck was a lie. And not even a truck, really. It was just a big, empty van with the big, empty promise of “free ice cream” splashed across its sides. There was no ice cream, free or otherwise. That broken freezer melted my sugar-high hopes like so much Cherry Garcia, reducing them to a tepid puddle of oozy disappointment. The dream was over before it even started.

All that was left now was the long ride home in a goofy-looking van.

Adding profound insult to grievous injury, we discovered that the van was ill-equipped to play the music on either of our portable devices. With a CD-only stereo system, our great road-trip playlist was suddenly cut down to the few discs that were already in the van (Alvin and the Chipmunks, and an empty case missing its copy of the Grease soundtrack. Awesome). We also had our pick of cheery talk radio (of the “Praise Jesus!” and “Obama’s a socialist-alien!” variety), and a selection of top-40 stations that seemed to know of only four contemporary pop songs between them.

But the trip did go fast. Literally. Not being loaded down with 31 flavors of frozen cargo does wonders for a vehicle’s agility. I can imagine what a sight we must have been – a big, flashy delivery van, painted in Mystery Machine colors, covered with silly slogans, and cruising along at 85 mph (past a puzzled state patrol officer looking unsure whether to stop us for speeding, or to grab a quick sno-cone). Weaving through freeway traffic with the urgency of a blaring ambulance, we no doubt gave the impression that some dire ice cream emergency required our immediate attention. And actually, such an impression wouldn’t have been that far off.

There was no way we were going to drive 200 miles in an ice cream truck and not have any ice cream. Surely that would upset the natural order of things in ways both frightening and unfathomable. So about halfway through our journey, Stacey made the kind of brilliant executive decision that earned her that “Manager of the Year” title: “That’s it,” she declared. “We’re stopping at the next Dairy Queen and getting Blizzards!”

The confused looks we were given as we rolled into the DQ parking lot in our “free ice cream” truck were priceless. The irony was lost on no one as I stepped up to the counter. With a bewildered smirk, the cashier couldn’t help but ask what the hell we were doing there, and why on earth we were buying our ice cream.


As we finally rolled back into the Emerald City, I was kinda hoping Mike would be there to greet us as we pulled up to my building. I didn’t know him as a child, but one of my most cherished images is that of a young, pudgy Mike running with the contents of a hastily smashed piggy bank and yelling “WAAAAIIIT!” as he chased down a passing ice cream truck. It’s a hilariously precious Mike-memory that he and I revisit often. But alas, he wasn’t home that afternoon. And I suppose that was for the best. There was nothing for my ice cream-obsessed boyfriend to chase this time but a couple of licked-clean DQ containers.

It had been a road trip quite unlike any other. It’s not every day that a banker like me is delivered door-to-door in such a memorable and exciting fashion. I was bummed about the truck’s crappily timed freezer malfunction, but in the end, we got our ice cream, and the indelible memory of a unique and oddly delightful excursion. After Stacey dropped me off, I waved goodbye to our flawed, but noble chariot. My Blizzard-buzz waning, I ambled inside, crossed “Drive 200 miles in ice cream truck” off my bucket list, and crashed.