A Quiet Place: Don’t Bother Getting Popcorn!

(Caution: MAJOR spoilers ahead!)

A Quiet Place took me by surprise.

I have never been one to enjoy horror films – blood and guts bother me. I have the disposition of a fawn, so any noise that’s too loud sends me rocketing out of my seat. Even watching scary movies at home, I have to have all the lights on, during broad daylight, with my dog sitting next to me.

Needless to say, I’m a weenie when it comes to horror movies.

I picked up the habit of not watching film trailers as I like to have a pure, cinematic experience with no expectations going into a movie. By complete accident, I wound up watching the trailer for A Quiet Place, and I was excited. John Krasinski is famous for his role as Jim Halpert in The Office, and I know Emily Blunt best from The Devil Wears Prada. I was curious to see Krasinski’s style as a director for A Quiet Place.

I had gotten to the theater a little late, so I got a soda, no snacks. As it turned out, I wouldn’t need snacks. Most of the film is silent or made of small noises, and the entire time, I was terrified to even take a sip of my Dr. Pepper. The monster in this film hunts by sound, make a noise that’s too loud, and you’re dead in seconds – this is clear in the first few minutes. Can you imagine if I had popcorn or nachos with me? They would’ve gone cold. Krasinski’s ability to immerse an audience so fully in a film within mere minutes is truly epic. Even after I got home, I was tiptoeing around my apartment, too afraid to make a noise that was too loud.

This movie scared me in a way a roller coaster scares people – there’s a certain thrill in it. The family has survived in this post-invasion community for over a year. They survive by walking everywhere barefoot, and on sandy trails to avoid crunching leaves. There is little spoken dialogue in the movie. The majority of communication is by American Sign Language and common gestures, such as putting the index finger to the lips – understood widely as “be quiet”. For the dialogue that is signed, subtitles are displayed for the audience to read. Because this film takes place within a family unit, no one calls each other by their names. To say it is too risky, but to sign it is unnecessary, as they are already familiar with each other. Over the course of the movie, we never learn the names of the characters, something I didn’t notice until after the film, when I was discussing it and realized I couldn’t recall the characters’ names.

One of the main characters, the daughter and the oldest child, is hearing-impaired. She has a cochlear implant on her right ear that is often faulty or not fully functional and becomes an important subplot to A Quiet Place. The father, played by Krasinski himself, attempts to fix her implant with various amplifiers. It’s clear he has tried this many times, as the daughter is frustrated by having her hopes held up, only to not be able to hear with the implant, resulting in disappointment.

I have never experienced a film in the way that A Quiet Place sets up. I was excited, nervous, happy, and anxious for the family through the entirety of the movie. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, and it was a wild ride from beginning to end. On a star scale, I’d give it 5 stars. It had amazing cinematography, a simple but well-thought-out plot, and characters that felt relateable and natural. If you haven’t seen A Quiet Place yet, I highly reccommend it – but don’t get popcorn!

Sun Devil Fan Fair: My New Favorite Way to Prepare for Convention Season

Comic conventions across the States are a great way for fans of many different genres to interact and show their love for pop culture. From cosplays to panels, to the vendor’s hall where those who are creatively inclined can sell their art, sculptures, or hand-made clothing. On average, each state has a big con once a year with some big-name celebrities that attend for photo ops, panels, and autographs. Arizona’s con organizers hold the Comic Fest around Memorial Day and recently have begun doing a smaller fan convention in the winter time.

I got to gear up for Phoenix Comic Fest early this year and attend Sun Devil Fan Fair, organized by a personal friend of mine, Morgan Fitkin-Lucas. It’s a free fan convention held in the upstairs ballrooms at ASU’s Memorial Union. Two of the large ballrooms were full of vendors with different goods. I ended up buying a “fruit bat” plushie and a couple other handmade fabric creations made by the talented Sidney Reetz. It was at her shop that my love of plushes and puns came together in one perfect moment.

Fruit bat! Created by Sidney Reetz (Instagram: @sidneyreetz )

I attended the fan fest by myself, but ended up running into a lot of my old friends and had the chance to catch up with them and enjoy the atmosphere. I had the opportunity to converse with some of the vendors about their art and how they got started and what inspired them. Many vendors had creations from popular animes and sci-fi/fantasy shows. As a fan of Game of Thrones, I saw a poster of the three-eyed crow with the caption “All Men Must Die” — my fellow GOT fans should know the translation of that. I was tempted to purchase it, but I was on a budget and my fruit bat took up the majority of said budget. (Worth it!)

I was able to get a short email interview with Morgan after the fair was over and I wanted to get the behind-the-con scoop from her, since she organized it. Here are all the details!

Me: Did you organize this all by yourself?
Morgan: I do organize the event largely on my own. The current President of DA [Dumbledore’s Army, a Harry Potter club on campus], Baylee Hirschi, needed to sign off officially on room bookings and reservations for tabling in front of the MU, but I selected the rooms, dates, and equipment and handled e-mails, marketing, and day-of preparations. I did have lovely volunteers help me set up tables and power cords the morning of the event.
Me: What was the biggest obstacle in organizing the fan fair?
Morgan: The biggest obstacle this year was probably lack of extra hands/free time of my own. I didn’t get to market on campus as much as I would have liked. It would have helped a lot to have some people agree to table or put up posters on campus when I couldn’t.
Me: What was your cosplay?
Morgan: I cosplayed as Camp Counselor David from the Rooster Teeth show Camp Camp! David and I are both very energetic and naive!
Me: How did you feel now that the fair is over and done for the year?
Morgan: I’m glad that the stress of this last month is over, for sure, and I’m very satisfied. We had a lot of new vendors and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again next year.
Me: About how long did it take you to plan, organize, and execute everything?
Morgan: I booked the rooms last fall, around September, and then put out the exhibitor/panelist/performer applications in December. Marketing got proper started in February. I’d say the last 3 months always have the greatest flurry of activity, but the ballrooms absolutely have to be booked in the summer or early fall.
Me: Favorite part of the event?
Morgan: My favorite part of the event was definitely going around to see all the exhibitors. I love talking with each table and seeing all the creative items they’ve made. I was also blown away by their generosity with the Costume Contest Prize bucket! We always only ask for a small donation item like a button and vendors give us some amazing items like art prints, plushies, signed novels, and even an etched mirror!
Me: Who was your biggest help during planning?
Morgan: There were numerous great helpers. My late wife, Emma, helped me keep my cool and reminded me that I do this for fun and if at any point it’s stressing me out too much I can step away. She was also instrumental in helping me run last year’s event by running around wherever I needed her. Jeffrey Rojas, Michael Chavez, Jared Brooks, and Maddy Wilda were the hugest help in getting tables, chairs, power cords, and posters set-up and they continued to run around where I needed them during the event. Holly Solis also brought me breakfast even though she was running DnD all day!
Me: Any other info, feelings, etc that you’d like to provide?
Morgan: Despite having graduated two years ago, I foresee running the event again for at least the next few years. I get immense joy from bringing together the local geek community and it’s such a unique experience. I do hope to get helpers interested in shadowing me and taking over someday, but for now, it’s my greatest pleasure to bring local creatives and students together each April.

With Morgan’s experience in organization and her creative mind, it’s not surprising that it was such a successful event. I had a fantastic time at Sun Devil Fan Fair and I can’t wait for next year. I’m sure it will be just as amazing.

An Open, Honest Letter to My Dog

My dearest Freya,

You are a rescue. You are six years old, but I don’t know where or when you were born. I know you have had a litter or two of puppies before, but I don’t know how many. I know you were malnourished before the Humane Society found you. I know you were in a kennel in dismal conditions before that.

I hear you quietly boof in your sleep. I see you twitch and hear you snore. You sleep in my bed every night, and I don’t fight you for space; this is your house now, too. You have a little stuffed turtle that you play with every now and then. You choose not to destroy him, you just chew on him a little bit. You get so excited to be outside, even if we’re just going out for a potty break. You tried to chase a bird one time and nearly pulled my arm out of my socket, but I wasn’t mad at you – you just wanted to chase a bird. Your favorite thing in the world is a good belly rub, and the little grin you get melts my heart every time. 

I promise to always protect you from danger. I promise to take you to the vet when I think you may not be feeling well. I promise to love you as hard as I can for the rest of your life.

While people have come and gone from your life, I promise to be a constant.

If I am ever out late, I promise to have arrangements made so that you are cared for.

When I come home, I see you wag your whole body, and I guarantee that I am just as happy and excited to see you. I know the bath scares you, but I am so proud that you are able to get through it without throwing a fit. You love people so much that sometimes you just can’t hold in your excitement and that’s okay. Even though you’ve been hurt, you don’t judge, you just love undconditionally. I hope I can learn that from you someday. Now that I have you in my life, I feel I can honestly ask the old cliche question, “Who rescued who?”

Love always,


Same Band, Different Show… Every Time

It wasn't too long ago that I was introduced to the local music scene. I'd been to a few big name shows such as Panic! At the Disco, Florence + the Machine, and Owl City – but nothing compares to seeing local music live. It's a great opportunity to support artists who live close by and get on board early. When your favorite hometown band does make it big, you have the opportunity to say "I've been with them since the beginning", or "I remember seeing them when they were just starting out and only 40 or 50 people showed up…"

My tale begins on a warm evening in April. I'm outside The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, waiting for the doors to open. I've seen this local band, T.O.S.O, a few times, but every time is like the first time. They do something that I've never seen any other band do live. KISS is famous for performing in costume and disguises, but the disguises are well-known. T.O.S.O. has a set of different characters for every single show they perform – and all of it is related to the theme and tied together. For this particular show, they were celebrating the release of their second album, "The Waste". The track names on the album themselves are too irreverent for print, but their alt-punk sound and creative lyrics are unmistakable. A T.O.S.O. show is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Zac, the lead singer and guitarist. (Photo credit: Zach Youmans)

The lead singer and guitarist, Zac, was dressed as a wizard, with the star-patterned pointy hat and everything that makes your standard wizard. Marc, the bassist, was dressed as an Intern Wizard – mostly black and a hula skirt. Having never been an Intern Witch/Wizard myself, I will safely assume this is the correct attire. Eric, the drummer, showed up as The Beige Ranger – dressed in all-khaki safari gear. I unfortuantely did not have the best view of the stage and was not able to see Evan (the other guitarist) or his costume. How does all this relate to the waste?

That's a good question – I have no idea. From what I've gathered of previous shows, they leave it up to the audience to decide how it connects. Where's the fun in explaining a performance? Art is subjective, after all.

Marc, the bassist, and Intern Wizard (Photo credit: Zach Youmans)

T.O.S.O. played a killer show, going through "The Waste" and allowing audience participation by throwing out a piñata into the crowd and getting a chant going, "Kill the idol!" (I later learned the idol represented post-postmodernism.) The audience tore the idol to shreds, and along with some light moshing, T.O.S.O wrapped up the show. I heard two of my favorite songs during their set, and even though I know and love both of those songs, it's like I'm hearing them again for the first time since the visual performance puts a different perspective on the lyrics. After breaking down the show, I asked the band what T.O.S.O. stands for. I didn't get an answer, and from talking to other fans, they haven't gotten a straight answer, either. For now, it looks like whatever T.O.S.O. stands for will remain a mystery to the public, but their music certainly won't stay that way.

Eric, the drummer and Beige Ranger! (Photo credit: Zach Youmans)

What’s Your Everest? (Or in My Case, Camelback)

I’ve heard a lot of stories about how difficult it is to climb Mount Everest. I don’t doubt that, but I’m not flying to Nepal anytime soon. It’s always been regarded as the hardest mountain to climb for its height, ice hazards, and high risk of injury or death. In my own opinion, I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t make it to the top of Everest. I am surprised that I made it to the top of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. For those unfamiliar with Camelback, it has two main trails, Cholla (which is easier at the start) and Echo Canyon (more difficult). Echo Canyon is a double-black-diamond trail.

Two months ago, my boyfriend told me that he wanted to hike Camelback – to the top. I told him he was crazy, there was no way I was in shape for it, I’m bad at hiking, etc. You may be wondering, “how can you be bad at hiking? It’s just walking around outside…”

Trust me. You can be bad at it.

My beloved chose not to heed my warnings and dragged me with him to Camelback one Sunday morning in February around 7 AM. Naturally, I complained most of the way up the mountain, when I could actually breathe. He asked me which was the easier trail, and I answered Cholla, Echo Canyon is known to be harder by Arizona locals.

He set off for Echo Canyon. I’m screaming on the inside at this point. I have plenty of water (or so I thought), and I’m wearing good athletic shoes. My chalky white skin is lathered in sunscreen. I probably could have used sour cream in its place and gotten away with it. We get partway up the mountain and we see a sign that warns us the trail gets a LOT harder from that point, and if we were not prepared, to turn around. I was vocal about the literal warning sign standing before us. My boyfriend laughed it off and said, “I’ve done this before. We’ll be fine.”

I’ve hiked before at Girls’ Camp growing up, and I’ve done my fair share of camping and being outside. This was nothing like that. We both ran out of water right before we got to the top and I was nervous about dehydration on the way down. I’ve seen too many news stories about hikers that are injured on Camelback because they didn’t bring enough water, or didn’t heed the heat warnings. On Echo Canyon, there are two separate parts of the trail that go at a high enough angle that require a railing to be permanantly fixated into the mountain. I can’t believe that didn’t scare off my boyfriend. We trekked onward and upward.

After two hours of climbing, picture-taking, and begging for a quick rest so I can catch my breath, we made it to the top. As we gazed out over the Valley with other fellow Camelback hikers, I took a moment to reflect on what I had accomplished. For someone who hadn’t hiked in years and hadn’t been to the gym in a few weeks, I made it to the top of one of the toughest mountains in Arizona. I’m proud of myself. Sometimes, it’s the little victories that mean the most.

The Joy of Customer Service

Customer service was not my first choice when entering the job field. To be frank, I don’t think it’s anybody’s first choice in a career. I get nervous on phone calls and tend to trip over my words often, so I knew a call center wasn’t the right move for me. I ended up desperate for employment and my neighbor told me that his hotel was hiring. He offered to put in a good word for me and I agreed. I ended up getting the job two weeks later. Fast-forward a couple months and my training had gone well – for the most part.

My position as a “Guest Services Agent” came with its own complications. First, I worked the evening shift on Saturdays and Sundays with no manager. Second, I was 19 and had no business running a hotel when I was still trying to swim through oceans of schoolwork. I would deal with smoking complaints while trying to check a guest in for the night. I had a drunk man pass out in the hallway, and then try to kiss me. I felt consistently overwhelmed, but I had to keep smile pasted on my face. My first job, and I knew I had to get out before I snapped. I ended up working for Target, and then a scratch kitchen after I got tired of red shirts and khaki pants.

By this point, I’ve gone through the trifecta of customer services jobs: retail, food, and guest services. I ended up breaking into the physical therapy business and this is where the story changes – I started to enjoy going to work, and I didn’t have to fake it. I felt that having an active hand in the healing of our post-surigcal patients made a difference. I was a technician, the lowest on the proverbial totem pole, but I still felt that I was doing something to help these people in their recoveries. Doing laundry and clinic maintenance was the easy part, and being good at something – even menial work – boosted my confidence and ignited my wish to learn more about how patients were treated.

As the time went on, I learned all the medical jargon; I became knowledgeable on which muscles attached to which bones, and the actions they performed together as a group. I wasn’t allowed to answer certain questions, being that if I got the answer wrong, my boss’s license could be at risk. Even if I knew the answer and was confident, I suggested to the patients I helped to ask their therapist. I found this to be an easy answer as I didn’t have to try to explain anything on my own.

I learned much in my year as a physical therapy technician. I learned other skills when I was a guest services agent, and learned even more when I was employed at a restaurant. All these places may have given me a different set of abilities, but the one lesson they had in common was this: sometimes, people suck. It takes no small amount of grit to get through customer service, but when someone is genuinely thankful for the work you do, that’s what tips the scales and makes a difference.