At the end of every episode of her J.V. Club podcast, Janet Varney plays MASH with the guest. If you’re a woman around my age, then I can’t imagine you not knowing what MASH is. For anyone else MASH is a game little girls play to forecast their future. In the version I played as a kid you usually gave 3 choices for categories such as who you were going to marry, what kind of car you would drive, how many kids you would have, what your job would be, etc. The MASH part stands for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, or House. In the little kid version of the game like with the addition of living in a shack as one of your potential futures, whoever you were playing with would also pick out something bad for you in each category. Janet doesn’t do that to her guests, so unless they pick something bad for themselves the worst thing they might wind up with is living in a shack.

Janet plays an updated version with her guests with mostly non-traditional categories. She has a standard rotation of categories that she uses, while changing them up and also adding categories that might be special for a particular guest based on who they are or the conversation they had leading up to the MASH game. It’s really fun to listen to every week, and the guests always get so excited about playing and hearing their “futures”. Since every week I think about the answers I would give, I thought it would be fun to take some of her standard categories and write my answers for them here on my blog.

A Food You Can Have Anytime You Want

This is Janet’s favorite category. She always uses it. It can be a general food like pizza or a very specific food perhaps something you can’t get easily or at all anymore. I decided to go with foods that I loved that were from restaurants that have gone out of business, so I can no longer get them.

1. Cheese Danish from New System Bakery – This was a bakery that was in my neighborhood for decades. It sadly went out of business a few years ago. I still miss it and am sad every time I walk by their abandoned location. I used to eat a cheese Danish from there every Saturday. I think what sets it apart for me is that it had more of a sweet bread base as opposed to the more flakey danish base that is typical of well danishes.

2. White pizza with tomato slices from Alyssa’s – Alyssa’s was a pizza/Indian place (For some reason there are a number of these in Baltimore. It’s an odd combo I’ve never seen anywhere else and in my experience the Indian food at them is lousy as you might expect.) in my neighborhood. They used to have 1/2 priced pizzas on Monday, and a group of my friends and I used to go every week. Even after that kind of fell by the wayside my husband and I still used to get pizza from there for ourselves most weeks. We always shared a white pizza with tomato slices. Their white pizza had sort of a garlic/olive oil sauce on it as opposed to the bechamel sauce you typically see and which I’m not that found of. It was a really good pizza and I still miss it.

3. Chicken Burrito from Curbside Cafe – Curbside Cafe was one of if not the first food truck in Baltimore. They only operated for a little over a year I think, then deciding that the food truck life was not for them. I heard them say they had no desire to spend another cold winter sitting in the truck, a sentiment I totally get. I do really miss their chicken burrito though. They used to park on my block for lunch on Thursdays, which was the day I didn’t go into work until 1:30, which meant that most Thursdays I treated myself to a burrito before a late night on the reference desk.

A Band that Writes the Soundtrack to Your Life

I’m amused now that I’m looking at the artists I put down. I seem to have a type in that all of these gentlemen play variations of music that I would consider to be southern, alt-country, folk rock type music. The second key for all of these is that they will play a mix of music both fast and slow because if you’re going to have someone creating a soundtrack for your life you’re going to want them to be able to write music to fit the mood.

1. Tom Petty – Tom Petty was the first person that popped into my head for this. I’ve loved him since I was a little kid. He’s the only artist whose music I’ve owned a box set of, and American Girl is my theme song. There is no way that Tom Petty was not my top choice for this.

2. Jason Isbell – If you’ve been reading this blog over the past year and half and somehow didn’t think that Jason Isbell was going on this list, you’re nuts. People can continue to ignore me, but I will still keep trying to tell you that Jason Isbell was one of the best singer-songwriters we have right now. I love him so much. Too bad I feel too guilty to drag my husband down to DC for a second time to see him this February after doing it last winter, and I somehow haven’t convinced any of the rest of you people that he is amazing.

3. Ryan Adams – I love me some Ryan Adams. He’s a crazy prolific songwriter, so I have no doubt he would be an excellent choice to soundtrack anyone’s life. He has a great mix of fun songs and more poignant songs. His songs also vary from rock to quieter songs. He would be brilliant.

Where You Have a Vacation Home

1. A lake house in the woods – I have always wanted a lake house with a dock and a little speedboat docked at it. I would love to have a place far enough way to feel like you’re getting away, but still near enough that you could go for a weekend. Stupid Maryland that has no natural lakes in it makes this somewhat of a pipe dream, but in my imaginary future I have this.

2. Bora Bora – I have never been to Bora Bora, so I may perhaps hate it there, but I doubt it. I chose this solely based on the awesome looking place they stay at in the film Couples Retreat. It is not a good movie, but the place they stay at in the movie looks amazing. It’s these cottages over the water where you could jump directly from the floor of your room into the clear blue water. I don’t have enough money in real life to stay somewhere like that, but in my fantasy life I do.

3. London – I love water, which is evident in my first two choices in this category. I decided to mix it up a little bit with the third. I have been to London a number of times including living there for a semester while studying abroad. It’s a city I love and which has affords me many of the cultural things that I love to do without the overwhelming crowdedness I feel when I’m in New York.

Your Celebrity Spouse

This category is full of people who I think are both attractive, whose roles in film and television I generally like, and from what I know of them I would like them in real life. If you know anything bad about any of them please don’t tell me because I don’t want to know.

1. Matt Bomer

2. Zachary Levi

3. John Cusack

Your Superpower

1. Go-Go Gadget-ness – As a shorty I always wanted to be able to reach things or see over things. In my head that always seemed to be like something that would be so easy to do if I could just say go-go gadget arms or legs and make myself taller or my arms longer.

2. Teleportation – I like visiting other places and there are lots of places I wish I could just pop into and out of to do a specific thing, but the time and money it would take to travel there makes it impossible do as much as I want. Being able to teleport places would make that so much easier.

3. Ability to be 2 Places at Once – It always seems that there are multiple things that crop up that I want to do that fall on the same day or I go to a music festival and the bands I want to see are playing at the exact same time. If I could have multiple mes that got to all go to different activities at the same time life would be so much easier, and I wouldn’t have to choose between multiple things that I want to do.

My Future

Playing the game through I have a mansion that is apparently a lake house. I’m not sure how that works, but I’ll take it. I can call up a chicken burrito from Curbside Cafe at any time I want while I listen to Ryan Adams play the soundtrack to my life. I’ll be doing all this with Zachary Levi, and we won’t have to worry about getting back and forth to wherever our lake mansion is because we can just teleport to get there.

Needtobreathe with The Oh Hellos at The Fillmore

Last night I went down to Silver Spring with some friends to see Needtobreathe in concert along with their opening at The Oh Hellos. I didn’t realize all of my friends who were planning on going to the concert until I got to the venue and some of the first people I saw were another group of my friends standing there. So that was fun and unexpected.

Although I had initially bought the concert ticket to go with my friends to see Needtobreathe I got even more excited when I realized The Oh Hellos were opening for them. You may recall that they blew me away at The Newport Folk Festival this summer. I pretty much immediately got home from Newport and looked at their tour schedule to see when I could possibly see them again. Much to my delight I discovered that I was already in possession of a ticket to their next show that would be anywhere remotely near me. They did not disappoint last night either. After their set was over I tweeted that they are pure joy because it is true. Their music, harmonies, and energy are all amazing and they just make my heart soar. They can command an audience who is composed mostly of people who have never heard of them in a way that I’ve really not seen any other band do, and you guys know I’ve seen a lot of bands live. I know I’m shouting into the wind here and that no one ever listens to me when I talk about music, but really everyone needs to go listen to this band right now. Then try and see them live because just listening to them can in no way capture the magic that they create on stage.

Here’s someone’s video on YouTube from last night of The Oh Hellos performing “The Valley”. I picked this one because they started the video title off with Crazy Good! because yes it was.

Needtobreathe was great as well. They had probably the most elaborate set/lighting set-up I have ever seen at a venue of this size. I’ve said on multiple occasions that I don’t really care about that kind of stuff. I’m at shows to hear the music and don’t really care much about stage spectacle. Sometimes I feel like bands get reliant on the spectacle to awe the audience and let the actual music fall by the wayside particularly once you start moving into large arena shows. That was not the case last night though. The band was 100% there in their performance and the fancy lights were just an added bonus. They had the crowd singing, clapping, and dancing along with them all night long. They shared about how the band almost broke up during the recording of their latest record and then the two brothers came out to sing off-mic and acoustically the song “Brother” about them coming back together. It was a lovely moment.

Here’s someone’s video of it on YouTube (actually amusingly I just noticed from the same person even though I searched them entirely separately).

My only complaint is enough with the encores already. This is the second concert I’ve been to in the past week where the band has gone off the stage for 2 encores. I know it’s a thing and people aren’t going to stop doing it, but I get so annoyed at the concept of it. It’s not like they’re really encores. Everyone knows you are coming back out. Until the lights come back and up and the pre-recorded music starts playing over the speakers you know the band is coming back. They have it built into their set list. It’s not spontaneous. Call me crotchety but the whole thing just irks me. I’m willing to put up with it for one encore, especially if the band doesn’t stay off stage for very long, but making me wait around while you go off stage twice just seems gratuitous. I want all bands to be like James Taylor was the last time I saw him. He just said I’m supposed to go off stage right now so you guys can cheer for me to come back out, so pretend we did that and I’m going to keep singing.

Overall it was an amazing night with great music and two bands that completely know how to command an audience. I can’t ask for anything more in a concert.

Pittsburgh Wedding Weekend

This past weekend Paul and I drove up to Pittsburgh for our friends Darra and Henry’s wedding. She grew up outside of Pittsburgh and went to college at the University of Pittsburgh, so they got married in Pitt’s chapel. We drove up after work on Friday night and arrived around 9. Some of the people went out after the rehearsal dinner, but we had just checked into our hotel and didn’t feel like getting back in the care to go meet them. We were not surprised upon checking in to see that there were 5 wedding parties staying in the hotel. That plus it being parents’ weekend at Pitt explained the fact that every hotel anywhere near that location was completely booked for the weekend, and the only reason we got a room was because we got a room in the wedding block. We noticed because there were 5 different bags for wedding guests to be given when they checked into the hotel. I joked that I was going to complain to Darra because her’s was the smallest of the 5.

Saturday morning Tracie and I had to drop off the cookies we had baked for the cookie table (more on that later) at the reception venue, so we met up to walk over together and then we plus our husbands grabbed breakfast together. Then we went over to Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning, which as the name implies is an actual cathedral, except dedicated to learning as opposed to religion. Many of the rooms on the outer ring of the main level of the cathedral are what they call nationality rooms. Each of the rooms is designed and decorated by people from various nationalities. Most of these were built in the 1930s and 1940s. They have also added additional rooms on the third floor from the late 80s through today and apparently still have some more in the works. They do have guided tours of the rooms in the afternoon, but we just took the self-guided tour. The rooms are very neat, and if you’re ever in Pittsburgh I would highly recommend checking them out. Although I’m very glad I don’t have to take a class in any of them. The furniture in most of the rooms is not comfortable. Not to mention the fact that I don’t know how any students who are even a little bit overweight fit in some of the chairs. I’m rather tiny and could barely fit my butt down in some of the room around the built in desks. Here’s only a small selection of the photos I took of the rooms. Unfortunately a lot of them run together at this point and I don’t remember which rooms they are from. I’ve labeled the ones I know.

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The wedding was in Heinz Chapel on Pitt’s campus, which was also a very beautiful space. It was a lovely service. I’m pretty sure Darra sobbed through the entire thing (of happiness people don’t worry). I’m pretty sure she’s the only bride I’ve ever seen crying as she walked down the aisle. I am surprised by none of this, as of course I’m sure is the case for anyone else who knows her.

The reception was at the University Club, which was just a short walk from the chapel. It was a also a very nice space. The food was pretty good for wedding food, and I will say that I was very impressed by how hot everything was when it got to our tables. Usually at these kinds of things the food is lukewarm at best when they’re serving 150 people at the same time. My one complaint is the DJ. The music was way too loud. I have never been to a wedding where you literally couldn’t talk to anyone at your table who wasn’t sitting right next to you without shouting. It made for a bit of an awkward dinner, and I felt bad for the guy at our table who didn’t know any of us anyway, but who it was very difficult for us to try and include in the conversation. The music levels got even worse once the dancing starting. I couldn’t stand to be on the dance floor for very long because the music was too loud. Even standing in the hallway area outside the music seemed too loud to me. This is something I have never experienced at a wedding before, and I was kind of disappointed because I always enjoy wedding dancing. So yo DJ whoever you are turn your music down a bit. I’m guessing you’re deaf by now, but the rest of us aren’t yet and don’t want to be.

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The wedding also featured a Pittsburgh tradition: the cookie table. From what I gather from the weddings I’ve been to where these have existed is that close friends and family bake cookies and they are put out for people to eat while at the wedding. Then people are also supplied with boxes or bags of some sort to take cookies home with them as well. I don’t know the official count, but if everyone made the exact number of cookies they signed up for there was supposed to be 140 dozen cookies. I myself wound up with about 4 dozen more than I promised, so there may have been more that that. I had bought some wedding cookie cutters to make cookies for Tracie’s wedding several years ago, so I got the chance to use them again for Darra’s wedding. I could have made something simpler than cookies that had to be cut out and decorated, but I know everyone loves this recipe. I heard some people talking about them last night when they were getting cookies though, so I’m glad my effort did not go unappreciated. And yes there were so many cookies I couldn’t fit them all in one picture.

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Table 2

Table 3

Table 1

The cookies I made.
The cookies I made.

As a bonus during the trip I also got to meet up with one of my Twitter friends in person. Amy is a fellow librarian who lives in Pittsburgh who I befriended over Twitter at some point in the last few years. I told her I was going to be up there for a wedding and asked if she wanted to get together while I was in town, so we made plans to meet up for brunch before we headed back to Baltimore this morning. We had a lovely brunch with her and her husband before heading home. It was great to get to meet her person finally. Even though she’s a librarian, she is what we in the profession call a special librarian meaning she doesn’t work in a public library, university library, or school library. They tend to run in different conference circles than the rest of us, so we don’t generally attend the same conferences, which is how I wind up meeting up with most of the library friends who I’ve met via Twitter. Hopefully we’ll see each other in real life again one day.

Overall it was a lovely wedding and a wonderful weekend. I am really happy for Darra and Henry. I wish them so much love and happiness in their new life together.

Hall & Oates at Pier Six Pavilion

Last night Paul and I saw Hall & Oates in concert for the second time. We saw them at Wolf Trap a little over five years ago. I enjoyed it enough that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them again much closer to home.  I was too young to see them in their hey day during the 70s and 80s, but no matter because they are still playing the same hit songs from back then. I feel a little bad for them because they have to be really tired over playing the same songs over and over again. At Wolf Trap they did throw in a few newer solo songs from each of them. Last night though it was straight hits from start to finish. They definitely give the people what they came for unlike some artists I’ve seen that will remain nameless. **cough**Jackson Browne**cough**

We both agreed that the Wolf Trap show was the better of the two, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why. Other than them adding in some solo stuff it was pretty much the same show playing in a different order. I don’t really know any of their solo stuff, so it’s not like I was missing that last night. Maybe it affected the way they came to the show though. I’m sure it’s hard to get excited about playing the same stuff they’ve played a million times. The crowd was definitely different too. At Wolf Trap the crowd was much older. Pretty much mostly all people around my parents’ age. They also sat for the entire show until the very end. Last night there was a much younger crowd. I mean I’m not talking college kids or anything, but way more people around my age in their 30s. The crowd last night was mostly up and dancing from the start of the show. You would think that would have brought more energy to it. Like I said I can’t quite put my finger on why last night wasn’t as good, but it wasn’t. Oh well. It was still enjoyable and a great reminder of how many great songs Hall & Oates have. I think though that twice was enough for me to see them live at this point in their career. I’ll throw on their greatest hits CD and call it a day.

Star Spangled Spectacular Weekend

September 10-16 Baltimore is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key at the end of the Battle of Baltimore at the end of the War of 1812. You may recall that two years ago Baltimore hosted Sailabration to commemorate the beginning of the War of 1812, which designed to initially end in this week’s celebration, which is being billed as the biggest event that Baltimore has ever held. We went down to visit the ships and see the Blue Angels two years ago on a Friday afternoon. It worked out well, so Paul and I decided we would both take a half day of work on Friday and go down again this year when it would hopefully be a little less insane than it was bound to be on the weekend.

We didn’t go on as many of the ships this year because Paul didn’t want to wait in line. Based on the amount of time we had I don’t think we would have really had time to go on any additional ones anyway. Paul had looked at the list of ships ahead of time and decided he wanted to check out the NOAA vessel the Okeanos Explorer. When we got there we discovered they were doing official guided tours and so you had to sign up for a time. Since we were down there early enough we actually got signed up for one, but not until 2 hours later. We walked around and looked at the rest of the ships docked in the Inner Harbor and grabbed lunch.

Then we walked over to Federal Hill and got up there just in time for the Blue Angels to start their practice runs for the shows they were doing over Ft. McHenry Saturday and Sunday. Even just during practice they are incredibly impressive. I’m sure the actual show is even more so. One of the local TV news people got a ride in one of the jets earlier in the week and apparently passed out. I would probably vomit and then pass out. Some of those dives are crazy! They are crazy fast too. I kept trying to get a picture of the planes flying by the flag in the center of Federal Hill because I thought it would be a really cool shot. I have about half a dozen pictures of the flag with the Blue Angels just outside of the frame instead. I did get one picture that I really like though with the Blue Angels in formation flying right above the Pride of Baltimore II as it’s sailing out of the harbor, so I’ll have to settle for that one I guess.

After the Blue Angels we walked back over to the Okeanos for our tour. They told us about the work they do on the ship mapping the ocean floor and how their remote operated vehicle (ROV) works. It was a much more in depth look at the ship than you normally get when you get to walk around the main decks. After that tour we walked over to Fells Point and took a walk around the H.M.S. Argyll, a Scottish warship, that was docked at the Broadway Pier. I was highly amused that their uniforms involved shorts and knee socks because that just seems so Scottish to me.

We headed home after that and got stuck in some crazy traffic. Obama stopped at Ft. McHenry on his way to a fundraiser in Baltimore County and it happened to be right at Friday rush hour, so it pretty much FUBARed traffic around the entire metro area for several hours. A drive that usually takes us 10-15 minutes took us 45. I did not make it home in time to take the shower I had planned on before going out to dinner for a friend’s birthday. Hopefully I wasn’t too stinky.

Saturday sadly was rainy for most of the day, which is too bad given that it probably would have been the biggest day for the event if the weather had been nice. Luckily the weather did eventually clear up enough that the Blue Angels were able to fly about an hour and half after their scheduled start time, so it wasn’t a total wash for people who braved the rain. Happily for us the rain was long gone by plans for the evening. As part of the celebration Baltimore hosted the Star Spangled Spectacular concert, which was televised nationally on PBS’s Great Performances. If you missed it live last night, sometimes they put them up online, so you may be able to watch it later. The concert was hosted by John Lithgow and Jordan Sparks and featured a number of performers from all genres of music including Train, Melissa Etheridge, Kristin Chenoweth, Little Big Town, Denyce Graves-Montgomery, Kenny Rogers, Pentatonix, Smokey Robinson, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. It ended in the largest fireworks display that Baltimore has ever put on and certainly the largest that I’ve ever seen. There were actually so many fireworks I was a bit overwhelmed. We were right in the middle of the six barges where we were located so I couldn’t decide which direction I should be looking. I think I might like my fireworks displays a little more subdued.

We had lawn seats of the concert, which actually worked out really nice for us. Because of the need to almost immediately switch back and forth between acts they had a second stage set up on the lawn. We had a great view of both stages from where we were, while I’m guessing people inside the pavilion had a poor view of the lawn stage if they could actually see it at all aside from what they were projecting on the screens on the main stage. Sometimes it pays to have the cheap (which in this case were not actually that cheap) seats. Each act sang 2 songs, so it gave you just a little taste of everything. Some people it made me really want to see more of live like Melissa Etheridge and others like Train reminded me why I don’t care about seeing them again. I realized last night that this incidentally was the third time I’ve unintentionally seen Train in concert because they happened to be playing with someone else I wanted to see. The first time was in a tiny little club where I went to college where they were the opening band, and no one had even heard of them yet. It was right before they hit it big with “Meet Virginia”. Anyway, I digress. It was a fun concert, and I’m glad we went.

It was a wonderful weekend overall. It was nice to see Baltimore on the national stage for something good for a change especially with all the recent bad publicity with Ray Rice and the Ravens.

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Paint Nite

Earlier this summer there was a Living Social coupon to do Paint Nite and my friend Jenny suggested that we get it and then go paint together one night. If you’re unfamiliar with Paint Nite it’s an organization that does painting events at bars and such. On their website they list the location, date, time, instructor, and show the painting you’ll be painting that night along with a rating for how hard it is to paint. Realizing our coupons were going to expire in mid-October we put our collective calendars together and came up with the one they were holding at Birroteca tonight.

It started at 6, but we decided to grab a really early dinner together first. Birroteca doesn’t actually open until 5 and we decided that we would be pushing it to be done in time if we actually ate there, so we wound up going to Arthouse instead. I was amused that we went from one Hampden pizza place to another for our evening’s activities.

I gather this is probably one of those things that like trivia, bars host on their slow nights in order to draw people in. This was the first one I’ve been to, so I’m not sure how similar the set-up is everywhere else, but I didn’t find it to be conducive to drinking at all. There was barely enough room on the table for the painting supplies and there certainly wasn’t any room to put down an extra glass. I did have a glass of water at one point that I had to set on the floor and then promptly managed to kick over, so I’m glad I didn’t have an actual drink. Other locations may have more room to spread out though and give people a little extra table space.

Even though our picture was rated as easy and we were going to get instructions on how to actually paint it I was dubious about my ability to paint anything halfway decent. I was actually pretty happy with how it turned out though. I might even hang it in our guest room. I’m not sure I’d want to pay full price for it, but it was a fun activity and I would definitely do it again for a discount.

My finished painting
My finished painting
Lovely ladies with our paintings
Lovely ladies with our paintings

Simple Pleasures

I don’t have anything big to write about at the moment, but the stress of the new fall semester demands that I focus on some happy things going on in my life. Thus I decided to do one of my periodic roundups of little things going on that are making me happy.

1. God bless the person who made cat medicine that is chewable and tasty enough that my cat thinks she’s getting treats every time we give it to her. It makes giving pills so much easier at least on most days. The days she completely refuses to eat make that a challenge, but given that one of the three pills she’s taking right now we actually have to shove down her throat I’m super glad we don’t have to do it three times. She’s already become a master of making me think she’s swallowed the pill and then walking away and spitting it out.

2. Speaking of the sick cat, the steroids and new appetite stimulants are so far working really well. She’s eating a ton and has much more energy. I’m still guessing we’re just extending her life for a little while and not curing her of anything at this point, but I’ll be happy to have her around for awhile longer as long as her quality of life seems good.

3. For the first time since I moved into a professional librarian position after getting my Masters in Library Science I am no longer regularly working a night shift. For the past 8 years I’ve worked on our reference desk at least one night per week, usually Thursday night. Due to some staffing changes and adjustments to the way we’re staffing the reference desk I am being shifted to day time hours and will no longer regularly being working at night. I’m sure I’ll be called in to work every once in awhile when people are on vacation or something, but for the most part I’m done. It will be really nice to be able to do things on Thursday nights again without having to worry about whether it’s worth it to try and take off work that night or switch shifts with someone if the monthly schedule is already out. I’ve already seen a concert I want to go to that’s on a Thursday in October that I was excited to realize that I could just go to without thinking twice about it.

4. You’ll hear more about these in depth when they happen, but I’m also excitedly anticipating some upcoming trips. In a couple of weeks we’ll be traveling to Pittsburgh for our friend Darra’s wedding. I’ve also made plans to meet up with a Twitter friend in person while we’re there. I always enjoy getting to meet online friends in real life. Then in October I have plans to go up to NYC for a weekend. Another Twitter friend, who I have already met in person responded to one of my tweets about having so many Broadway shows I want to see by saying I should come to New York the weekend she’s going to be there for New York Comic Con and we could go to a show. It worked out with my schedule so I’m going up. It will be fun to catch up with her again in person as well as see Aladdin. If Bolt Bus ever puts tickets on sale for that weekend I’ll figure out exactly when I’m going up on Saturday and returning on Sunday to figure out what else I might get up to while I’m in town.