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   fries as birthday dinner
Tuesday, January 19 2010
For the second time this month, Gretchen had been in Florida for most of a week. The first visit was to support a friend whose husband was dying. Her second visit was to support that same friend after her husband (the famous photographer Dennis Stock) had died. Today was Gretchen's 39th birthday and she'd be flying to Albany from Florida. The plan was for me to pick her up at the airport, then we'd drive to the Crossgates Mall to see Avatar in iMax 3D, and then we'd end up in Hudson in time for a late dinner at Mexican Radio (a twin-venue Mexican franchise with origins in New York City). They're somewhat overpriced but unusually vegan-friendly.

Last night in bed I was sure my health was deteriorating; my throat felt increasingly uncomfortable and I'd developed a cough. But after I woke up, took the dogs for a walk, and did a little software development, I was feeling almost healthy. The only problem was the cough, but it wasn't too bad. It's unusual for me to get that "pre-sick" feeling in the back of my throat and then not end up bedridden a day or two later. In fact, this was only the second time this sequence of events has played out (the other time was earlier this season). Gretchen, of course, attributes my new-found resilience to viral assault to my almost-entirely-vegan diet, which I've observed for about nine months now.
At around 4pm, I headed up the Thruway to Albany. Earlier it had been snowing, and now a light rain was falling. This gradually turned to snow as I headed north, though none of it was sticking to the asphalt. Albany is a sleepy airport and it wasn't hard to find Gretchen. I didn't even park the car.
Not being too familiar with Albany, we didn't know how to get to the Crossgates Mall from the airport. Signage was poor and we ended up overshooting the proper exit by one heading south on the Thruway part of I-87.
We'd originally planned to kill some time at The Standard, a simulation of a jazzy Art Decco joint. But we'd used up too much of our time getting lost, so instead we went to a Houlihan's for drinks and fries. And then it was time for our movie, which had cost us more than $15 each. Still, and despite the depressed nature of the economy, the iMax was filled to capacity with people wanting to see Avatar. Normally Gretchen and I go to hippie theatres to see alternative films, but this crowd was strictly mainstream. Young white men are still wearing backwards baseball caps, a fashion that should have long ago gone the way of the mullet.
The Regal Cinema had managed to scare up some 3D trailers to slap in front of the featured presentation. Watching Avatar on an iMax but not on marijuana was something of a step-down in terms of the quality of immersion (and immersion is important for this film, which is about immersion). As expected, Gretchen enjoyed the complexity of Pandora (both its biology and the way the Na'vi fearlessly navigate their precipice-rich environment). But she hated the chases, the violence, and the overlong war sequences, scenes she would have fast-forwarded through had she been watching it on DVD.
The story of Avatar could have been told with a much shorter movie, and Gretchen's time calculations hadn't factored in the length of the film. At some point as we headed south down the Thruway, we realized we'd never make it to Hudson before Mexican Radio's kitchen would close. So, sadly, we had to abandon that part of Gretchen's birthday.
Not wanting Gretchen's birthday dinner to be just a sad order of French fries at a mall-based simulation of a tavern, I unfroze a pizza, covered it with canned mushrooms, and put it in the oven. But by then she was very sleepy and was in bed fast asleep by the time the simulated pizza with simulated cheese was ready to be eaten.

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