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Missing In Action

At the lovely Deanston Distillery in Doune, Scotland.

So based on the lack of life updates for the past several months, I think it’s safe to assume I’ve been busy. Very busy. So busy, that it’s shocking to me that it’s already October! Is 2022 that close to wrapping up??

When you last left your hero, Amanda and I were getting ready to embark our honeymoon in Versailles, London, and all of Scotland. We came, we saw, we caught Covid. But more on that later.

During our stay in Versailles, I managed to flash all the remaining Invaders that I hadn’t been able to capture in previous visits. Amanda and I made a day of it, renting bicycles and riding all around the city. It was quite the adventure! We even rode through a forest, onto a private golf course, and on the outskirts of the city just to get a very inconvenient one on a freeway overpass. It later rained on us as we were wrapping up, but even the rain couldn’t ruin my mood: I now have all the active Invaders in Versailles!

Later that evening, we dressed up for the Fêtes Galantes ball in the Palace of Versailles, looking like we had just stepped out of the 1700s. It’s been one of Amanda’s dreams to attend, and she looked absolutely stunning in her custom-made dress. I looked dapper as well, spending a fraction of what her dress cost on my outfit. It was the wig that was the most uncomfortable accessory, but alas, I don’t have hair long enough to style in such a manner. We explored the palace all evening, dining on finger-foods and bottomless glasses of champagne. We didn’t stay until the fireworks at the very end, because it was incredibly stuffy with everyone crammed into the tight rooms and hallways, and also because we had a very early train to catch to London in the morning. We had lots of fun, and will definitely be attending again in the future.

We woke up very early the following morning to catch our Uber to the train station in Paris. We barely made it in time, with our driver stopping at every light and not making any attempt to go faster. We were so late, that I missed flashing a very convenient Invader on the side of the station. One trip through the Chunnel later, and we arrived in London. We were tired, cranky, and couldn’t get an Uber to take us to our hotel to save our lives. We eventually had to settle for a taxi, and I missed another Invader opportunity because we were so frazzled. The Dixon Hotel was a very nice swanky hotel right next to the Tower Bridge. Once we settle in, we were famished and walked around looking for a nice place to eat. We came across Flat Iron, a steakhouse that just sold steak and sides, and it was one of the best steak experiences I’ve ever had. Even the knives on the table were shaped like mini butcher knives! The best part: they gave you two tokens at the end that you could exchange at the bar for soft serve ice cream! I was incredibly giddy. Plus I got to eat Amanda’s cone because she’s lactose intolerant! Best. Day. Ever.

Later that night we took a metro into the city to see The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Phantom is Amanda’s all-time favorite musical, so if it’s playing within a 100-mile radius she has to see it. While the actress who played Christine was phenomenal, the actor who played the Phantom was…not Phantom material? Let’s just say he was the spitting-image of Francis from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Once I whispered this comparison to Amanda, it ruined the rest of the show for her. He’s no Ramin Karimloo, that’s for sure!

The next day consisted of tea at The Ritz (where I had to borrow a suit and tie just to be seated), and walking around London flashing a few Invaders. We even got to see them setting up for the Platinum Jubilee which would be celebrated a week later. Finally, we visited the Tower of London before walking back to our hotel. We were only in London for less than two days. The real honeymoon was about to begin.

The following morning consisted of driving to the airport to catch a plane up north to Inverness. Once we arrived on Scottish soil, we rented a car and I had the fun (terrifying) experience of driving on the wrong side of the road to our bed and breakfast. We were a few hours early for our check-in, so we walked into town to explore. The scenery reminded me of why I love Scotland so much. I first went in 2005 with my family after my high school graduation, and to return 17-years later allowed me to truly appreciate its beauty (and my heritage). It was Amanda’s first time, and after studying Highlander culture for years from watching the documentary Outlander, she was so thrilled to walk in the same streets that Jamie Fraser might have also walked in hundreds of years ago.

Our adventure throughout Scotland was a delightful blur, and each city we stayed in was always close to an Outlander filming location. Slowly but surely driving on the left-side of the road got easier to adapt to, but some of the very narrow roads and steep climbs were definitely hair-raising. One highlight from up north was visiting one of my favorite whisky distilleries: Glenmorangie. Amanda had booked a tour for my birthday, and I got to see the entire distilling process. It was amazing! The tasting at the end was kind of “meh” because we only got to try two of their standard years instead of anything fancy or rare, but I did make sure to stock-up on merch!

On our way to the next city, we made a slight detour to go pet some Highland Coos, the legendary red-haired cows of Scotland. It was just the two of us and another couple, and the owner of the farm, Roy, gave us an incredible experience grooming the coos, and after gaining their trust, eventually giving them a giant hug. I can honestly say I felt so relaxed by the end of the experience. I’d bring a Highland Coo home with me if I could, and return to that Zen state of grooming them whenever I felt stressed from work.

The next town we stayed in, Stirling, was a slight let down. Our AirBnB was great, but the town itself had changed a lot since I last visited in 2005. It looked like half the town was shut down, and had been before Covid even swept through. Stirling Castle was still the most prominent tourist spot, but the rest of the experience wasn’t the best. Amanda’s highlight was a year-round Christmas store, where she got ornaments so she can always remember Scotland.

By the time we had arrived in Edinburgh, I had started to develop a cold, and flu-like symptoms. I had a feeling of dread that I had finally caught Covid, and sure enough when taking multiple Covid tests, I was in fact infected. This definitely put a damper on our final days in Scotland, because it was now only a matter of time that Amanda was going to catch it. I suspect I caught it from the distillery tour, because that was the only time I had my mask on and off with a group full of people (a few of them on a bachelor party). It wouldn’t have been Versailles because of when I got the symptoms. Nevertheless, we needed to get out of Scotland and back home ASAP before Amanda’s symptoms would catch-up with her. It was a shame because we had plans for all sorts of fun festivities around Edinburg, including a Cat Café, whisky tasting, and even visiting the epic Edinburg Castle at the top of the hill. Thankfully, we were able to get an earlier flight, and throughout the whole ride home I was double-masked, and barely ate anything. A few days later as we quarantined at the house, Amanda got symptoms. Had we not got that earlier flight, she would have been traveling home sick on our original departure date.

For me, I had intense nightmares and was fine a day later. For poor immunocompromised Amanda, she had a new symptom every day for a week, and at one point lost her taste for a few days. Bottomline, it sucked. Silver lining was we were both vaccinated and boosted, so it could have been a lot worse. Plus, our immune symptoms can now fight it if we ever catch it again. It’s just crazy to me that Amanda and I have been safe, wearing masks, and taking precautions for the past two and a half years, and it wasn’t comic conventions, a trip to Paris last Thanksgiving, or multiple trips to Disneyland that got us; it was rural Scotland.

Since I’ve been back, work has been running me through the wringer. Unreasonable client demands plus a perfect storm of deadlines all colliding at once has made me exhausted these past few months, hence why updating this blog took a backseat. Looking towards the future, I’ll have FUGU COMIX #2 out by the end of the month, and CLUSTERFUX COMIX #5 out by December (slowly putting it together as we speak). I have one or two fun announcements to share, but I’ll save those for another post when the time is right.

In the meantime, enjoy a few photos from the trip, and of course, the majestic Dinah.


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