be there and be square: the corner.

the corner sign bwAs I got ready that evening, I wondered if I was dressed too fancy for dinner at The Corner and an opening at Larkin Arts. I texted Brandy, “I’m bling-ier than usual…” And she replied, “Most girls do that when they’re on their way to the corner.” Touché. And so I left my outfit as it was, got the kiddos in the car, and headed downtown.

blingy katieOn the way Bree recited the entire Bowflex Treadclimber commercial. And then one for AARP. And then she said, “Mom, you’re old. Maybe you need life insurance from AARP. It’s just pennies a day.” I made a mental note to chop the power cord to the TV when we got home.

Then another text came through: “At Food Co-op. Locked keys in car.” Oh, dear. And I thought about that time last summer when Brandy locked her keys in her car at Riven Rock Park. No big deal — it was summer and we had no schedule, really. But today we had little time for error… we had to get to The Corner where we were having a quick meeting with Kai, then get to the art opening at Larkin, and get home before the kids started fighting in public. By the way, when I told Bree and Cal that Kai would be joining us, they said, “Kai — the ninja??”

“Yes,” I told them. “He’s a ninja.”

the corner kaiAt the Food Co-op we piled into my tiny car like a clown family and drove to The Corner. Brandy had called someone to come unlock her car, and we figured we probably had time to eat before they arrived at her car and got it unlocked. The hostess showed us to a table upstairs. If you’ve not been in there before, they have a spiral staircase. I’ve always wanted one of those. I kinda like the sensation of being lost as I go up… the serpentine design prevents you from seeing the top step until you’re on it, but I always stare at my feet anyway because I’m so clumsy I’m sure I’ll fall down. Later the kids enjoyed tossing little notes they’d written down the spiral… <sigh>, at least they were nice notes.

the corner stairsUpstairs we sat in a booth, and no sooner had we unloaded all our stuff (notebook, pen, purse, camera, camera bag, crayons, paper, LEGOs, coloring books, lip gloss, Angry Bird hat, etc.) than the locksmith called and Brandy’s car was ready. She decided to run up there (from West Water Street to East Wolfe Street! In the windy cold! In boots!) and retrieve her car. I tried to tell her we could drive over there after dinner, but she insisted it would just take a sec. And out she went.

I ordered an Allegash for her, a 471 IPA for myself, and drinks for the kids. The waitress brought the kids free popcorn (yes, people — they give your children free popcorn from the cute machine downstairs!!) while I perused the menu. And I swear, during the four minutes it took the server to bring our drinks, Brandy ran to her car, settled the transaction, drove back, parked, and was sitting in front of me like she’d never left. That girl can RUN! Maybe SHE’S a ninja. Then she stood up on the booth and starting taking photos. No one ever questions her.

the corner popcorn bwThe Corner has a great menu. Simple, tasty food, but with lots of choices. We ordered a Philly, Mac and Cheese, cheese pizza with applesauce, a Make-Your-Own Nachos, and a Make-Your-Own pizza with chicken, onions, and jalapeños. And when you make your own pizza, you don’t have to order an entire pizza — you can just order one slice. I love that. Because when you order pizza in a group, someone always gets shafted. Not at this restaurant!

the corner basketsThe kids announced that “you guys need your space” and moved to a nearby table. Ha! No argument here! In fact, they read my mind. Personally I think they were concerned that a ninja was on his way.

There’s always some signal that it’s time to go. On this night, Cal and Ella bumped into each other getting more popcorn and spilled it all over the place. But Cal assured me as he shoved handfuls into his mouth, “Don’t worry. I picked it all up and put it back in my basket.” Yep. Time to go.

the corner popcorn 1We made a quick pit stop on the way out.

the corner collageVisit The Corner next time you’re downtown. They are located at the, um, corner of Water Street and Main, across from Oasis Gallery.

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

REDO: starry city nights no. 8: john c. wells planetarium

UPDATED November 13, 2012

Last Saturday I had an opportunity to take all five children to the John C. Wells Planetarium. Three of them had not yet seen the presentation, and the two who had were happy to see it again. Kids love to watch things over and over. That’s why I know every line of Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, and that “Charlie Bit Me” video on YouTube.

And even though I’d seen the Orion video before, I’d not seen it on this day, with this group of people. The night sky looks different now than back in March when I originally posted this entry, and every day is unique, after all.

This time around I noticed the kids’ reactions: the audible gasps from little ones when they saw the purple Star Ball emerge from its case in the center of the room, blinking and beeping and rotating around.

The kid who, when the host asked if anyone had a question, said “I do! I do!” but never actually asked it, reminding me that wonder and mystery sometimes feel good–we don’t always need to know the answers.

The ooohs and aaaahs from spectators of all ages at the bright beauty of the night sky, all the faces collectively turned upwards, gazing at infinite possibilities and at hope itself. If we stare long enough, we might feel it: what matters is not that which is finite, but that infinite sliver we each contain that tethers us, forever, to the vast sky and to each other. Sitting there beneath the dome of the heavens made me want to gather my gaggle a little bit closer and feel small again.

Maybe sometime soon, now that the sun sets earlier, and before it gets bitter cold, find a dark corner of our friendly city, spread a blanket on the ground, and lie under the stars. Listen to what your kids say, laugh your butts off, and dream that night not of what seems impossible, but of sweet possibilities.

The JMU Planetarium offers free shows every Saturday.

You can read the original post from  March 17  below…

When I sat down with my notes to write this entry, I couldn’t read a dang thing. Why? Because I took notes in the dark. I wrote words on top of words and am now relying on my memory for most of the details. HA. And Brandy. She quietly held her camera in her lap and snapped away at the dome, wishing upon one of those zillion stars that even one picture would turn out. A writer and a photographer in the dark. Whose idea was this?? Brandy’s totally paranoid about the photos you see here, but, God bless her, I think she did pretty darn well, and I expect to see LOTS of complimentary comments about her work, thankyouverymuch.

The John C. Wells Planetarium at JMU has FREE shows on Saturdays at 2:30 and 3:30. (Click here for details.) The 2:30 show is geared more toward younger kids, so the six of us attended that one. The planetarium has theater seats and, obviously, a domed ceiling that acts as a huge screen. The first half of the show we saw was a cartoon about Orion. Sweet (ultra-violent), romantic (obsessive) Orion, who has to slay beasts for his love, Merope, who is the daughter of the king of Chios. The king (who, by the way, in the cartoon, looks just like Ben Stein) gets sick of Orion’s constant attempts to “win” Merope’s favor (thankfully the cartoon glosses over all the violent stuff he did) and poisons him, causing Orion to go blind. Then he drifts, lost at sea, for miles and miles until he lands on Lemnos and is ultimately healed by Helios.

From there he goes to Crete, meets Artemis, and totally forgets Merope ever existed. Artemis is the Goddess of the Hunt and has no feet.

Does that sound strange?

I thought so, too, but none of the women in the cartoon have feet. Their legs just taper down to points. There’s gotta be symbolism somewhere in THAT.

Anyway, Orion and Artemis get along smashingly. The climax of the film occurs when Orion turns into a ninja. At least, that’s what I think my notes say. I also think I wrote the words “Matrix-style,” but I can’t be sure. And something about a scorpion. And Orion DIES!  Artemis memorializes him in the heavens as the constellation you see today.

Oh, yes. I TOTALLY see it.

After the cartoon, the second half of the show started and this massive stellar projector with more than a hundred lenses and mirrors called the “GOTO Cronus Star Ball” rose up like a monolith in the middle of the floor.

The host, Dr. Shanil Varani, demonstrated several cool things. He showed us what’s currently visible in the night sky from the good ‘ole Burg, which includes Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury (!), and even Saturn. Wow! If you want a better view of the heavens while there’s so much to see, you can attend one of the FREE Public Star Parties held on the last Friday of each month in the meadow behind the Physics/Chemistry building. The next one is March 30, and you can like them on Facebook to get updates and make sure it hasn’t been called off for bad weather.

*As a side note, I have to confess that my spelling skills don’t work in the dark and I wrote “Pubic Star Party” in my notes. BAH!

Getting back on track, Shanil talked a lot about light pollution, which not only hurts one’s ability to see the constellations, but all that light at night is just a waste of electricity. Definitely an important point. The most meaningful part for me, however, was when he displayed the planets and talked about their size. We all know the sun is gigantic compared to the planets (a million Earths can fit inside the sun), even though the sun is not a huge star. And a thousand Earths can fit inside Jupiter–the largest planet.

But what really moved me, I admit, is that as large and looming and impressive and popular as Jupiter is, it’s commonly referred to as a “failed star” because of its size. Even JUPITER is too small… it doesn’t have the mass necessary for stardom. And so when I think of the failures in my own teeny tiny human life that I think are SO massive and so… irrevocable, I remember Jupiter… the laughing stock of the solar system.

Now that’s an ego check.

starry city nights no. 8: john c. wells planetarium

When I sat down with my notes to write this entry, I couldn’t read a dang thing. Why? Because I took notes in the dark. I wrote words on top of words and am now relying on my memory for most of the details. HA. And Brandy. She quietly held her camera in her lap and snapped away at the dome, wishing upon one of those zillion stars that even one picture would turn out. A writer and a photographer in the dark. Whose idea was this?? Brandy’s totally paranoid about the photos you see here, but, God bless her, I think she did pretty darn well, and I expect to see LOTS of complimentary comments about her work, thankyouverymuch.

The John C. Wells Planetarium at JMU has FREE shows on Saturdays at 2:30 and 3:30. (Click here for details.) The 2:30 show is geared more toward younger kids, so the six of us attended that one. The planetarium has theater seats and, obviously, a domed ceiling that acts as a huge screen. The first half of the show we saw was a cartoon about Orion. Sweet (ultra-violent), romantic (obsessive) Orion, who has to slay beasts for his love, Merope, who is the daughter of the king of Chios. The king (who, by the way, in the cartoon, looks just like Ben Stein) gets sick of Orion’s constant attempts to “win” Merope’s favor (thankfully the cartoon glosses over all the violent stuff he did) and poisons him, causing Orion to go blind. Then he drifts, lost at sea, for miles and miles until he lands on Lemnos and is ultimately healed by Helios.

From there he goes to Crete, meets Artemis, and totally forgets Merope ever existed. Artemis is the Goddess of the Hunt and has no feet.

Does that sound strange?

I thought so, too, but none of the women in the cartoon have feet. Their legs just taper down to points. There’s gotta be symbolism somewhere in THAT.

Anyway, Orion and Artemis get along smashingly. The climax of the film occurs when Orion turns into a ninja. At least, that’s what I think my notes say. I also think I wrote the words “Matrix-style,” but I can’t be sure. And something about a scorpion. And Orion DIES!  Artemis memorializes him in the heavens as the constellation you see today.

Oh, yes. I TOTALLY see it.

After the cartoon, the second half of the show started and this massive stellar projector with more than a hundred lenses and mirrors called the “GOTO Cronus Star Ball” rose up like a monolith in the middle of the floor.

The host, Dr. Shanil Varani, demonstrated several cool things. He showed us what’s currently visible in the night sky from the good ‘ole Burg, which includes Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury (!), and even Saturn. Wow! If you want a better view of the heavens while there’s so much to see, you can attend one of the FREE Public Star Parties held on the last Friday of each month in the meadow behind the Physics/Chemistry building. The next one is March 30, and you can like them on Facebook to get updates and make sure it hasn’t been called off for bad weather.

*As a side note, I have to confess that my spelling skills don’t work in the dark and I wrote “Pubic Star Party” in my notes. BAH!

Getting back on track, Shanil talked a lot about light pollution, which not only hurts one’s ability to see the constellations, but all that light at night is just a waste of electricity. Definitely an important point. The most meaningful part for me, however, was when he displayed the planets and talked about their size. We all know the sun is gigantic compared to the planets (a million Earths can fit inside the sun), even though the sun is not a huge star. And a thousand Earths can fit inside Jupiter–the largest planet.

But what really moved me, I admit, is that as large and looming and impressive and popular as Jupiter is, it’s commonly referred to as a “failed star” because of its size. Even JUPITER is too small… it doesn’t have the mass necessary for stardom. And so when I think of the failures in my own teeny tiny human life that I think are SO massive and so… irrevocable, I remember Jupiter… the laughing stock of the solar system.

Now that’s an ego check.