I don't normally repost things here, but RC sent me this article, and I thought it worthy of posting. From NPR's website:
Absinthe: A Potent Potable Makes a Comeback
by Curt Nickisch
Weekend Edition Sunday, November 25, 2007 · Picasso sipped absinthe. Hemingway mused on it. It may have helped persuade Van Gogh to lop off his ear. Now a drink banned in the U.S. for nearly a century (it was wrongly considered a hallucinogen) is back on the scene at trendy clubs.
Click here for the source of this article.
Wow. It occurs to me that a lot of shit has happened to me, and I have been remiss to post it here. I was going to go back and post it in the proper place, but LtL told me that that would be stupid, and I should just post it here as a new post and be done with it.
Ok, so here goes:
It all started back in August *screen ripples*
From August 23 – September 4, I was in the city of Denver, the Mile High City, in the state of Colorado, The Centennial State. From August 22 – 24, NASA had an exhibit, the Vision for Space Exploration Experience at the Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival in Chatfield State Park. I was invited to staff the exhibit, and as my boss was in a particularly good mood when I asked if I could go (oh, and as another office paid for my travel), I got to go out to Denver. What I wasn’t told, however, was that I had to be at the exhibit ass-early everyday. I had to be there at 6:30 in the morning. This wouldn’t be too bad, but some brainiac decided that it would be best if we stayed on the other side of town.
We stayed at the Embassy Suites, which was a great hotel. They had just finished renovating it, and everything was fancy and clean and working. Each morning, they provide guests with complimentary issues of USA Today and breakfast. At least that is what I was told…I left the hotel each morning long before I had a chance to partake in such frivolous luxuries. I was, fortunately, able to participate in the Manager’s Happy Hour in the evening where the liquor flowed free (as did the mixer to water it down). Ne’ertheless, I still had to get up at the ridiculous time of 4:30, and what with being so far above sea level, it was bone-chillingly cold at the crack of dawn. This would have been OK had I thought to ask about the temps—instead, I only packed summer attire. Likewise, I failed to recognize that a mile above the ocean the mosquitoes would be even fiercer. They have vampire skeeters there, and I was bitten up like a mofo!
The Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival was pretty cool. The closest I’d ever been to a hot air balloon before that was the “hot air balloon” my mom made for me to “ride” in when I played the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz in first grade. That was a laundry basket that she had cut the bottom out of and attached suspenders (à la the cartoons where the dude is naked and wearing a barrel). She also attached balloons on strings to simulate the sandbags, and somehow (my memory is foggy this many years removed) she hitched an oversized umbrella to make the balloon. (My mother is much more creative and resourceful than she has ever given herself credit for.) So, imagine my surprise when I learned a) they don’t use sandbags, b) balloons are really fucking big, and c) the baskets don’t have holes in the bottom!
Of course I wanted to go in one. I had just come off the rush of hang gliding (read all about it here: What I did on Saturday), and I wanted to tick off another thing on my Things to Do Before I Die list. I had no idea how to do this. Did one just walk up and ask? Did I have to pay? Was there any chance at all? I mean, what’s the insurance liability on that, and besides I was there to work. Well, the Hombre (our truck driver) has a special way with people, and he had befriended the organizer’s husband. Said husband had offered Hombre a ride, and his response was, “No Fucking Way!” He suggested that I go in his place, and the husband said that shouldn’t be a problem. I was a little concerned to ask my supervisor (and I use that term VERY loosely) if I could go, but it turned out that she had also scammed her way into a ride. Suddenly, the trip was worth the 4:30 wake-up calls and the killer skeeters…I was going to go for a ride in a balloon.
So, I get to the pilots’ tent around 6:00 the next morning, just like the dude told me to, and he looked around and randomly selected a pilot for me to go with. I have to be honest, I was a little apprehensive, not that he didn’t look like he was competent, but he didn’t look all that interested. Just as I finished shaking hands with the Captain who I would be trusting with my life, the morning announcements began, and as I didn’t want to lose site of the Captain, I stayed by his side. As the announcements were being made, they said something I didn’t understand. I must have made a face, for the Captain leaned in and explained. He seemed to have an air about him now that he was excited about having a ballooning virgin to take under his wing. After the announcements, we headed out to where his balloon was, and I ventured a few more questions. I had been mistaken. What I took for nonchalance now seemed more like lack of coffee or that he still needed to wake up a bit, for as we walked across the field, he became more animated and excited to fill me in on the goings-on of the ballooning world.
We finally arrived at his trailer, and I learned the name of the balloon that would be taking my virginity from me (it’s always nice to know her name as you never forget your first). I also met the rest of his crew. It never occurred to me that there would be so many people involved. Our balloon (yes, I said “Our”—I already was beginning to feel a sense of kinship) was a relatively small one, and the basket only held 3 people. But, there were still 6 crew. It took several people just to get the basket out of the trailer. Then you needed someone to drive the chase van, for you never really knew where you were going to land. In an ideal world, I learned, you land as close as possible to where you took off, but the winds don’t always cooperate, so you need to be prepared. Also, the envelope (balloon-speak for the balloon itself) weighs a freaking ton, so it, too, takes several people to haul it out of the truck or to stow it back in its place. The crew was busy pulling out the balloon and laying it out, situating the fan (another thing I learned…they “cold inflate” the “envelope” first with a large, high-powered fan before using hot air), and generally getting everything ready to go. We all had to sign a waver, of course, and I dutifully complied. I also took a ton of pictures of the balloon being inflated and getting ready to go.
Once the balloon was cold inflated, the person who assigns lift-offs walked around and did whatever needed to be done. Once we were ready, we could take off at our leisure. The Captain had just tipped the basket upright, and in so doing got the envelope to stand up, when the crew told me to jump in. Seconds before taking off, someone stuck a baseball cap on my head…it was a good thing. It gets freaking hot when the burner blows.
So, the question that is on everyone’s mind who has yet to go in a hot air balloon is, “how was it?” I’m not really sure how to answer it. Anticlimactic is the best I can do. Sure it was fun and I had a great time, but honestly, there was something missing. I think it didn’t have that adrenaline rush feel that you would think would come with being suspended in the air by nothing but a few ropes attached to a large balloon. By the time you get into the basket, the balloon is already filled with hot air and ready to go. As such, all that was needed once we were cleared for take-off was another blast. I was so busy looking around, I didn’t notice that the ground was receding. That, I think, was the problem: you don’t feel anything. It’s so incredibly gentle. Because balloons glide with the wind, you don’t feel the air. In fact, they say that you can light a match, and it won’t go out because there is no wind in the basket. The Captain’s wife (who was the third person in the basket with us) said that she loves to go flying because it is so calm, gentle, and serene. She is absolutely right. We were just sort of floating there in the air 1,000 feet above the ground, and at 7:30 in the morning, the world was calm, peaceful, and beautiful. Then, in an effort to keep that moment, the Captain switched the burners on.
Now, you need to understand that the Captain is firing the burners regularly. I didn’t realize that you have more control over the balloon than one might think. You use the wind and shifts in the wind to help you go up and stay aloft, but you also use the burners to get you up and down to find the wind currents. But you also use that to keep the air hot. Don’t forget that at 1,000 feet above the ground (and don’t forget the ground was already over 2,000 feet above sea level), the air gets cold, so it takes a lot of heat to keep the air inside the envelope hot enough to keep you in the air. So, as I said, the burner is going regularly. The upside is that you get to stay in the air. The downside is that it’s really f’ing loud, and you can’t really anything when they’re firing. Also, it’s crazy hot…and when you have a really bad sunburn on your face and arms…yea, not so pleasant.
We flew about a ½ hour to 45 minutes, and we climbed to about 1,200 feet but averaged about 1,000 feet.
We settled gently down in a field about 3ish miles from where we took off. We hung out in the basket waiting for the chase crew to come pick us up. Once they arrived, we laid the basket on its side, dropped the balloon, and started to pack it up. At this point, they put me to work to earn my ride. I was eager to help, and after they snapped a few pics of me “working,” they pushed me out of the way and got to work in earnest. We folded the balloon and put it back in its bag. In an effort to pack it in, we all grabbed a piece of the bag and lifted the outer edges, then we did it again, then we started to do it a 3rd time, and as we began to lift, everyone let go…everyone but the uninitiated, and that would be me. S’all good, though.
After getting back to the show site, I was informed by the crew that I needed to head back for initiation and breakfast (yes, don’t forget that the clock hadn’t even struck 9 am at this point). I was a little concerned because I still hadn’t reported for work, but neither had my friend (excuse me, my Supervisor). She reported to her balloon, and was told that it didn’t look like she was going to make it, but at the last minute, she was able to climb aboard and got to go as well.
I hung out at the exhibit for a few minutes, and then the Captain came to get me. We headed back over to where the balloonists’ trailers were now situated for tailgating, and I hung out while everyone got things ready for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of omelettes made in Ziploc® bags. They were pretty awesome. But before we could eat the omelettes, there was the matter of initiation. As I mentioned, I was a ballooning virgin, and as with most specialized communities, there are initiations for the neophyte.
I think that tradition and ritual are extremely important, and if you are going to do them, you really ought to do them right. As I said, the actual flight in the balloon was great, but was less thrilling than I had expected. I am so incredibly grateful that I had the captain and crew that I did because while I can talk about the actual flight as an independent experience, I really feel that the whole time I spent with the group is all part and parcel. As such, because they welcomed me to fly with them, because they took me in and invited me to their tailgating, and because they took the traditions so seriously, the overall experience was an incredible one, and I won’t soon forget it. After comparing notes with the Supervisor, I definitely had a better overall experience.
So, as most initiations are supposed to be a surprise to the initiate, I will not go into details. All I will say is that it included the history of ballooning, an explanation of why champagne is important to the hobby, and, of course, a champagne toast. If you want to know more, go in a hot air balloon, and you will get initiated. The initiation, like this post, ended with the Balloonists prayer:
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
So the weekend went pretty well.
I took Friday off, and lounged around, cleaned a little, packed a little, and finally made my way to West Falls Church-VT/UVA Metro station. I hung out there doing a crossword for about ½ hour to 45 minutes before the Sabra arrived (she couldn’t get time off work). We boarded the Washington Flyer and headed to Dulles International Airport. All went smoothly until we got to security. Now, I have flown a lot in my life, and I’ve very rarely been searched; in fact, I am pretty sure that I do not fit any of the current profiles. On the other hand, there is the Sabra. True, her accent is Hebrew and not Arabic, but do you really think the Haitian, Dominican, or Ecuadorian TSA agent really knows the difference betwixt Hebrew and Arabic accents? I don’t think so. So, as you have guessed, the foreigner with the Middle Eastern accent was able to walk right on through without any problems.
So, yes, I—who is, I might add, 100% pure-blooded American—get stopped at security, and they require a baggage check of me. I expect that they are going to pull out my backpack, which was loaded with all kinds of electronic equipment, any of which could have been pieces of some unconventional weapon. But no, my computer, camera, lenses, cables, iPod, headphones, cell phone, blackberry, electric razor, adapters are all OK. What are these brainiacs who are protecting American skyways looking for in my bags? What weapon of mass destruction did they want to confiscate? Would you believe it wasn’t anything electronic, nor sharp, not even anything ticking. No, it was in fact my nearly empty tube of Crest. Admittedly, it WAS the new Pro-Health kind. They also took my nearly empty tube of shaving gel.
So, as I’m retying my shoes, and putting my tighty-whities and socks back into the suitcase, I was free to go and ponder this recent event. The first thing I thought was that if I actually knew how to take a plane down with nothing but an almost empty tube of toothpaste and an equally almost empty tube of shaving gel, I’d probably be a very wealthy man. Instead, I was in reality nothing more than an embarrassed average joe. Oh well.
We finally made it through security, found our gate, and just had time to get an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. Our plane was a little delayed and moved to a different gate (one down) because of some problem with a flight completely unrelated to ours. Once we get onboard, we sit down, and meet a very nice guy who was on the last leg of his journey. He had been flying for 20something hours from Singapore. One row ahead and on the starboard side (we were on the port side) was a screaming baby. I was ready to kill, but the Sabra kept calming me down. We finally roll out to the tarmac and get in line to take off when we learn that there are major delay due to electrical storms somewhere over New York. We ended up sitting on the tarmac for over 2 hours. The pilot came on and said that they were considering returning to the gate, but then we would lose our place in line. Before he could make up his mind, we got the all clear, and off we went into the wild blue yonder. It really wasn’t so bad, we ended up getting in around 7 instead of 5.
The Little Sabra’s brother and sister-in-law met us at the airport, and off we went to dinner. As we drove from the airport to the restaurant, I got the rather entertaining tour of the town. Beside the fact that it was dark and I couldn’t see anything, I’m not so sure they really had their bearings, the Bro would say look to your left, and the sis-in-law would say no, that’s further down, and the Sabra would say “are you sure we didn’t just pass it?” Like I said, very entertaining. If they weren’t pointing out landmarks, we were all chatting and getting to know each other. They seem like fun people, and we spent most of the ride laughing.
Dinner was at a frou-frou Indian restaurant. I had, of course, a biryani. It was quite delish. Believe it or not, I couldn’t finish it. The Sabra also had biryani, but her’s was vegetarian (of course). We got doggie bags. After dinner, we walked over to an ice cream shop, but only the sis-in-law got anything. So, back into the car. I was offered a quick driving tour of town, and as I’ve never been to Beantown, I took them up on their offer. We drove past Cheers, and Boston Common, and over the Charles River, and other places until we finally got to the hotel. It was way late, and we went to bed.
Saturday morning, we got up, ate breakfast, and walked. We walked all over town. From Beacon Hill to Little Italy, and then over to some water and into a produce market (a la Machnay Yehuda in Jerusalem), and back to the hotel. I honestly have no idea where all we went, but there are pics on the Photoblog. We were out and about all day. It was so nice to be a tourist. We met some interesting people, some not so friendly people, and some just odd people.
We eventually made it back to the hotel, where we refreshed and met her kinfolk again for dinner. We went again to a frou-frou place, this time for sushi. I think we all really liked the restaurant: it had great atmosphere, the service was good, and the food came out in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, as is the case in the more expensive restaurants, it was rather over priced, and the portions were very small. Nevertheless, as I said, it was quite tasty, and I think we all enjoyed what we ordered. From the restaurant, we drove back to her sibling's apartment, left the car, and headed into their neighborhood, and proceed to drink. We were all pretty toasted, and the Sabra and I got a cab and headed back to the hotel to go to sleep.
Sunday arrived, and we set out for the retirement party that originally brought us to Boston in the first place. We took the T from the hotel to her brother’s apartment, and that was cool because I love subways. There was construction on the track, so we had to get off and get on a bus and get back on the trolley. We got back on the trolley at the wrong station and the guy tried to make us pay again. We didn’t. We finally got to her brother’s and we all set out to find the place where the event was. That, too, was a drama as he and his wife had no idea where we were headed, and we got sort of lost (sort of because they still basically knew where we were going).
So, once we got to the event, it was quite nice. Even though I didn’t know anyone, it was still pretty emotional. It wasn’t hard to see that at least 200 people showed up to wish this woman good-bye. She apparently built the organization and ran it for 15 years. The program was pretty good. Most of the people who spoke were entertaining. Her replacement spoke, and it truly boggled my mind that someone so bad at public speaking could be the one selected to take the reins. I don’t mean to imply that he was inarticulate; quite the contrary in fact, he seemed sharp as a tack, but he was clearly not comfortable speaking in front of that many people. They showed a video that someone had put together. I think if I knew even 1 person in the video it would have been good, but since I didn’t, I watched with a more technical eye, and could see that it was entirely too long. I understand that these projects are made with emotions running high, but even the folks who know everyone in the video were getting bored because it was running a tad too long.
We walked around a bit talking to some fascinating people. There was one professor who was married to another woman and their daughter seems to have some personal problems (imagine, with 2 professor, hippy, wacky moms, I’d be shocked if she DIDN’T have problems). There was another woman who was excited to tell us that she had taken her wife’s name. Then there was the woman who lives down the street from the Sabra, tried for the Sabra’s job, and runs a business not unlike one of my ideas. These were truly interesting characters, and I think someone like LtL could have found a mother lode of material for his writing.
We finally said our last good-byes and headed to the airport. We were running late, and time was of the essence. So, naturally, we hit mad, mad traffic. The long and short of it is that we missed our flight home, and after much debate, we decided that it was worth paying an extra $100 each and getting home Sunday night instead of getting a hotel and being back at that airport by 5 am on Monday.
We flew into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport around 7 that night and were back at my apartment before 9. Even with the strip search and delay and screaming kid and traffic, I had a great time meeting her brother and sister-in-law and seeing Boston and riding on the T and taking pictures. All in all, it was a fun weekend, and I do hope that we do more of these weekend excursions.
My Brother-in-Law, sister, and I went to the Rhino Bar in Gerogetown last weekend to see the Eagles kick the crap out of the Saints. Sadly, the Saints trounced the Eagles. There were many a dejected Eagles fans angrily and drunkenly making their way back to their beds after the game ended and the bar closed.
Who won or lost that game, however, is not really what this post is about (although it should be noted that my kinfolk and I were rooting for the Eagles). As most of my loyal readers know, Jo Cose doesn’t really know the Stanley Cup from the Ryder Cup or "The Ashes" from Arthur Ashe. Nevertheless, I love my sister and Brother-in-Law, and I savor the opportunities to spend time with them (that, and they usually end up paying the bill). Also, football is one of those sports that I actually enjoy watching, but I just don’t get all the rules. The Bro-in-Law does (he used to play), so it’s enjoyable to watch with someone who can call the penalties before the refs, AND explain them to me at the same time. Finally, it was an opportunity for me to observe my fellow humans in their environs—one, I might add, that I would not normally go to on my own.
That is where this post is going. I have heard tell of how people behave in sports bars, but I was still fascinated. I am sure that I was completely wide-eyed and stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. First of all, everyone was wearing Eagles jerseys except the brave few wearing Saints shirts. By the time we got there, most of the Eagles fans were 3, if not 5, sheets to the wind…so the energy was pumping. We sat in the back, close to the big screen projection TV. Fortunately, my sister and I were against the wall. This was good for 2 reasons: 1) I’m small and terrified of being trampled, and 2) my sister is preggers. The Bro-in-Law sat on the outside, and it’s a good thing he is a big guy—there was a lot of hitting and body slamming…but more of that anon.
The folks next to us were hammered and loud. They did a rollcall, and each person in the bar that was wearing said jersey number would stand up, and everyone would cheer. When this ritual was complete, they (the Eagles fans) turned on the Saints fans (who were towards the front of the bar [that is, by the doors] for some reason). Middle fingers abounded and someone began to chant. Before long, the rafters were ringing with the sportsman-like incantation, “Fuck the Saints!” Once everyone settled, another chant began, mostly as a gurgle from deep within the belly of the bar and rose through so many throats and mouths: “DEFENSE! DEFENSE! DEFENSE! GOOOO EAGLES!” Even I got wrapped up in the moment and found myself banging on the table and clapping my hands.
The waitress came by time and time again: first with pitchers for the table next to us, than Irish Car Bombs for the table on the other side of us. She rushed back with our food and beer (diet coke for my preggers sister), then more pitchers, then more Irish Car Bombs. It was a constant flow of alcohol. I didn’t think people really consumed that much liquor in one sitting.
Finally, the game began and a new chant was heard, “DOWN IN FRONT!” Once the fratboys in the front settled down, the ball was snapped, and the Eagles–Saints game was underway. Before, I could even determine who had the ball, one of the fratboys in front of me jumped up and blocked my view of the TV. He looked around, as if looking for his compatriots, and settled down. Within seconds, he was up again, this time a personal foul was called on the opposing team. Apparently, this is good for us. He proceeded to give high-fives to his fellow drunken buddies. Everyone was happy. Each play ended this way: something would happen, but before I could determine what, my view of the television was blocked by the aforementioned fratboy.
Eventually, the Eagles scored their first touchdown of the game. To say the place went wild would be an understatement. The bar was packed; we were lucky that we had gotten there between games and were able to get a table. There was actually a line to get in because they had reached their fire-code limit. So, imagine being in a room the size of a small 1-screen theatre with probably 800 people (including the upstairs), all drunk, all screaming their lungs out. A small mosh pit started right in front of us, and my Brother-in-law was either dragged or willing jumped—I couldn’t tell which—into the melee of sweat, arms, fists, and hugs.
Eventually everything settled down, and all were glued to the set…would the kicker get the extra point? Of course he did, and the crowd let up a great cheer. Apparently the kick after a touchdown isn’t as worthy of mayhem as a touchdown is. That didn’t stop our fratboy cum jack-in-the-box from jumping up. He went around his table and high-fived everyone. Even the ones that weren’t paying attention: He would hold one hand in the air and tap his potential high-fiver with the other until he got their attention and then would commence the obligatory high-five.
I missed the next several plays because Mr. Jock-in-the-Box would jump up immediately. It was pretty aggravating. Is this a part of the ritual of watching sports? Is one supposed to continuously stand and sit throughout the game? What does it accomplish? If the play was good (for his team anyway), he would jump up out of his seat, high-five everyone, again heckle those who weren’t ready to be high-fived until they complied, and point to no one in particular (à la the apocryphal Babe Ruth stance) and nod his head in an affirmative. If a play was bad (again for his team), he would jump up out of his seat, alternately either throw his hands in the air in disgust, put them on his hips and pace sulking, or thrust his hand as if he were throwing something, run his hands through his hair, and sit back down. Touchdowns required special animation: he would (as you may have guessed) jump up out of his seat, bear hug his buddies, high-five others, and rub the girls (who were hot, I might add) on the head or face either before or after high-fiving them as well.
What interested me the most was the passion with which he would hug his fellow sports fanatics. I am not speaking of a sexual passion, but rather of a passion that one would expect from the players themselves who scored the touchdown, or the coach who would enter the game with trepidation that he might be looking for a new job come Monday morning. It was a passion that said, “That was me. I made this touchdown, and it has deeply affected me.” If he is the stereotypical sports fan, then I was indeed lucky to have sat next to him. I honestly felt like Jane Goodall as she observes her primates.
I think that that is the most alien part to me of watching sports. I am dispassionate about it. I can admire a good play (when I understand what happened), I can appreciate quality teamwork and good sportsmanship. But I just can’t seem to become so engrossed, so obsessed that I actually become so viscerally affected, that I believe that my world hinges upon the outcome of a particular sporting match. Sometimes, like last Sunday, I actually feel like I’m missing something. I feel left out. I wish I could care about sports like so many others do. I try, but I lose interest too fast. For instance, there is another big game this coming weekend; yet, if I miss it, it won’t be the end of the world. In fact, I will most likely miss it as I have a packed weekend, and none of my plans include watching the game. I’ve been told by a co-worked that I’m actually better off for not being so involved with sports, but I don’t know…I sometimes feel like the only one in the world who doesn’t care who plays in, or wins, the Super Bowl.
I just noticed that it's been ages since I've posted anything. This is really even more inexcusable when you realize that I've been doing fuckall at work for months now.
Anyway, things that have happened since last I posted:
- I took my buddy out for his bachelor party. I actually started to write this up, but when I got to the part where we went to the tittie bar, I decided that maybe I shouldn't actually post it. Needless to say, we had a great time looking at naked women! We headed over to the Block (Baltimore's Red Light District) for old time's sake. We went to some dive and this 40something-year old skanky crack-whore slides up to me and asks me to buy her a drink. I play along and say, "sure." Fucking twenty fucking five fucking dollars for a fucking drink! I was pissed! That pretty much ended the evening. We headed back to my buddy's house and smoked cigars.
- The aforementioned buddy's wedding. RC came in on Friday, and we headed over to the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner...that was good times. We had chinese food, and I haven't had chinese food (except for the fast food joint near Chez Jo Cose). Saturday we got up and headed to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, and walked around that, then we did some other stuff I can't remember just now, and in the evening, we met the 'rents, headed into Old Town, VA, met my sister, and had dinner at Landini Brothers (an awesome northern Italian restaurant). After dinner my sister split and the four of us went to a paino bar where we met up with another friend of mine and his partner. Fun was had by all.
- Sunday was the wedding. It was a very nice affair. It was the 3rd wedding I've been a part of in the past 15 months, and it was the first that was fully Jewish, so that was nice. My speech went off without a hitch for the most part. I offended one person, but I suppose that that is life, you can't win them all. The Bride and Groom were happy and entertained, and that really is all that matters. I drank way too much gin. After the wedding, the Bride, Groom, RC, and I went back to the hotel, cracked open some brew, and continued to celebrate.
- Monday morning we headed over to the brunch and had bagels, eggs, and blintzes. I got beat up by the kids...all seemed normal.
That's pretty much it. Now you know the rest of the story.
Last week, RC and I went on vacation…WHOOOOT VACATION!! This year, we went north again, but actually ventured out of the country this time round.
Friday, July 21, 2006
RC flew in late in the evening. I was actually impressed because Southwest was on time for a change, and I thought that we would be home at a reasonable hour. (She usually comes in on the flight that gets in around 11:30 in the evening, but said airline doesn’t seem to ever actually land until after midnight.) I knew that it was too good to be true, and sure enough, the conveyor belt that the luggage comes in on decided it had had enough and quit. So, while Southwest finally cooperated, the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport didn’t. We got home late, went to bed late, and of course…
Saturday, July 22, 2006
woke up late.
RC told me (not suggested, not implied, not recommended—TOLD ME) to call Budget and let them know that we were running late. “No, it’ll be fine,” quoth Jo Cose. “OK, but you really should call,” saith RC. So, right, moving right along, we get to Budget 2 hours late, and of course the car is gone, and RC is kind enough not to say “I told you so,” which, I kept telling her that she should say.
We decide to get breakfast and head over to Silver Spring. We went to Caribou Coffee, where RC got a bagel and coffee. I stayed in the car and called Budget to see what they could do to help me. Well, it turned out that there were still cars available at their store at BWI. Since RC has AAA, we got a bit of a discount.
We had some time to kill, as I told the woman on the phone that we would be picking up the car at 2 pm (so there would be no reason that we would miss the time). We headed back to my apartment, played on my computer for a bit, and then we finally headed up to BWI to get the car: a Ford Fusion. RC told me that we should follow the signs to the car rental return. No, I insisted, we need to go the terminal first to do the paperwork. We walked the entire length of the concourse and didn’t find the rental offices (you see, once upon a time, they were all in a row on the luggage claim level). So, I asked someone and discovered that we needed to take a shuttle over to another building, which incidentally, was the same place that you return the cars. Once again, RC had the perfect opportunity to throw a big ole “I told you so” into my face, but again she held back. RC drove the rental and I drove my car over to the ’rents’ apartment, where we dropped off my car (as a side note, I’d like to mention that the ’rents were kind enough to get my tire fixed [there was a nail in it] and rotated while I was away—kudos to them). Since we were there, and RC was once again hungry, I invited the ’rents to join us for lunch. They met us at Noodles & Company in Pikesville. They didn’t eat, but wanted to spend time with us.
We finally got on the road around 4 pm. Not too far off the mark as we were planning to leave around 9 am. Everything was going well until I made the mistake of letting RC drive. Now, please don’t misunderstand. I love her dearly, and very honestly, I admit that she is a very good driver; however, she apparently doesn’t do too well at toll plazas. We were in the middle of the plaza heading for the tollbooth when she decided that she wanted to be at the far right of the plaza. So, without warning, she decides to cross multiple lanes for traffic. All I remember is us being pretty much perpendicular with traffic and a big-ole pickup heading straight for us. I was screaming “BRAKE!!” as loud as I could. We survived just fine.
We drove and drove and drove and drove some more. We stopped at many a rest area where we could consult large maps on the wall that told us how far we’d traveled and how far we had to go. Finally, around 11 pm, I couldn’t take it any more, and we pulled off the road and got a room at the Comfort Inn & Suites. The room kind of smelled a little funky, but it was cheap, and breakfast was included.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
We were up early and partook in the aforementioned free breakfast. I played on my computer trying to get a bunch of MP3s onto a disc so we could listen to them in the car. I wasted a lot of time, but whatever…we were on vacation.
We got back on the road heading north. We stopped in Lake George, NY. It’s really lovely there, and we had thought about either going parasailing or taking a boat ride, but in the end, we just walked around town. RC had to get coffee, and then she had her fortune read in an arcade. It started to drizzle, but that didn’t stop us. We walked down to the water and found a restaurant to have lunch: King Neptune Pub. We sat on the patio, which afforded a beautiful view of docked boats, the lake, and the mountains on the far shore. We heard the tour boat’s horn blast as she came back to her berth. The sun had returned, and it was perfect…if only the food was as good. RC got a Reuben, and I got a ham and cheese. Sadly, our meals were mediocre at best. While our waitress (server, sorry, didn’t mean to be politically incorrect) was friendly and acknowledged the delay, we sat for a ridiculously long time waiting for our sandwiches to come. In fact, I had to go and feed the meter before we were fed because we were concerned that it would expire before the meal came.
Once we paid the bill and left the restaurant, we walked around some more of the shops. I got a sample of birthday cake ice cream. It was AWESOME—real icing, real birthday cake (and the white kind, not yellow!). RC wanted a caramel apple, but they didn’t have any. So, she decided to get a candy apple instead, even though this was not what she wanted. Needless to say, she took one bite and decided that she didn’t really want it.
Next we walked up the hill to the Fort William Henry Resort. We just sat there for a few minutes taking in the view of the lake. I tried to take a picture of the two of us with the self-timer on the camera, but I’m not sure if turned out or not.
We finally got back in the car and headed north.
After another eternity behind the wheel, we finally got to the American-Canadian border. We were very lucky that the young lady who processed us at the border was quite attractive, and she had that sexy French-Canadian accent that we would hear time and time again during our stay. She started out asking questions as all immigration officers do, and in usual fashion, RC took over and answered them before I could. Now, I know that when RC reads this post, she will be annoyed with me for saying this, but the truth is that it was humorous, and I had absolutely no problem with it. The only caveat to that is that the immigration chick didn’t stamp my passport, and since RC was running the show, I didn’t get a chance to rectify this…c’est la vie.
We’re finally in Canada, and they are very nice there: there were several signs reminding me that the speed limit signs were in kilometers per hour and not miles per hour. With little warning, we crossed the bridge and were in downtown Montréal. With less effort than I expected, we found our hotel, the Hotel Omni Mont-Royal. It was way swank, and RC loved it. I think she was sadder to leave the hotel than to end vacation…but I’m getting ahead of myself. We pull in and begin to remove our luggage. The doorman practically grabbed my suitcase out of my hand. Now, RC and I are in agreement that we don’t like others touching our luggage, and we are completely capable of taking our own cases to our room. I said to the guy, “it’s no problem, really.” He put the cases on the trolley and said, “Now it’s less of a problem.” Of course, by the time the baggage arrived in our room, they knew who I was, and called me “Mr. Cose.” This greatly impressed RC.
Once we settled in, we decided to go out and walk around to get our bearings (well, OK, so I could get my bearings anyway). We walked down to Rue Sainte-Catherine where all the nudie clubs are, and found our way to Rue Crescent, where all the restaurants are. We settled for Allo Inde and it was a damn good choice (NOTE: The website says that they are on Rue Stanley, but it was actually on Rue Crescent—1437 to be exact). We went with a prix fixe menu for 2, and when it came, I was a little concerned because it looked like there was very little there. In fact, we couldn’t eat it all. I made a poor choice with the wine (but in my defense, I know fuckall about wine), but the meal was great.
We headed back to the hotel and had a nightcap at the hotel bar, Le Petit Opus Café Bar. We were the only ones in the bar, and after bringing our drinks (a piña colada for RC and a G&T for me), the bartender came over to make sure the piña colada was OK—he’d never made one before. After our drinks, we called it a night.
Monday, July 24, 2006
We were up once again bright and early. Because I was with RC, we of course began the day in typical fashion: at Second Cup. I swear, it’s like she can smell out a coffee shop from a mile away. We spent a good deal of time getting her coffee at what seemed like every Second Cup in Montréal. Oh, we also got an awesome blueberry muffin there (the last one in fact!).
RC loves to buy and read travel books, so she had her Frommer's Montréal & Quebec City 2006 with her. Chapter 8, “Montréal Strolls,” has 4 walking tours. We did “Walking Tour 2: Downtown” today. It was pretty fun. We walked all over the downtown area and saw a bunch of cool looking buildings. As the tour took us back to Rue Crescent, we popped into Thursday’s for some food (OK, another NOTE: I just checked the receipt to make sure that this joint was on Rue Crescent [yea, I’m that much of a geek] and it says that it’s located at 1430 Rue de la Montagne…I give up on trying to figure out the addresses in this damn town). I got le croquet-monsieur (a toasted ham and cheese sandwich), and RC got la baguette au jambon et brie (a ham and brie on a French baguette). They were pretty good, but mine was loaded with toasted butter. I’m not sure how to explain how this is different from toast with butter, but it is. This type of bread usually upsets my stomach, so RC was kind enough to trade ½ her sandwich for ½ of mine.
We headed back to the hotel after finishing the walking tour. RC wanted to play in the pool, so she headed down to the pool while I worked on my crossword for a bit (yes, that’s a euphemism, but I’ll leave it to you to figure out). She was so excited at the pool because they asked her for her room and name. She gave them the room and said she was Mrs. Cose. I’m not really sure why she was excited about this, especially given the fact that she doesn’t want to change her name when she gets married. I joined her at the pool, and no one asked me for my name or room number…hmmmm. We played in the pool for a while. There was a young, overweight child in the lane next to us who kept yelling, “Daddy, Daddy, watch me” or “Daddy, Daddy, time how long I can hold my breath.” RC, in her usual way, pondered what it was about pools that makes kids beg their parents to watch them do things.
Once we were bored with the pool, we headed upstairs, showered, and dressed for dinner. We walked down Rue Sherbrooke O to Boul Saint-Laurent. We walked up Boul Saint-Laurent to Rue Prince-Arthur, a pedestrian walk (at least the direction we went) that was lined with restaurants. As usual, we couldn’t make up our minds and ended up walking back down Boul Saint-Laurent to a quaint place named Restaurant Cafétéria. I got a filet mignon that was awesome, and RC got some kind of pasta (imagine). She got a sour apple-tini, and I got a gin and tonic. We sat at a table that was against an open window, so we had the breeze, got to see the people walk by, and I was asked for money by a bum. RC really liked the restaurant because the waiter was cute…whatever.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel. We stopped at a candy store for RC to ogle the merchandise. The proprietor wouldn’t let us leave until we tasted his gelato. It was worth it! When we finally got back to the hotel, we went to bed.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
For some reason, I was in a particularly good mood this morning, and I walked down to Second Cup and got RC coffee. This is an even nicer effort on my part when I inform you that I try very hard to get RC to quit her caffeine habit. When I got back to the hotel, she was almost ready. We walked down to Boul De Maisonneuve and had breakfast at Eggspectation. While I would normally complain since there is one right down the street from my apartment, I have come to discover that they originate in Canada, so it’s OK.
After breakfast, we walked down Rue Sherbrooke to Boul Saint-Laurent and headed over to the Old City. We walked through Chinatown (what they call Quartier Chinois). At this point, we began “Walking Tour 1: Vieux-Montréal.” We walked past La basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal and down to the water, but it was hot, and RC doesn’t do so well in hot. So, we decided to bugger off on the tour and just sort of walked a bit on our own. We were getting hungry, so we found a nice place to get out of the heat: Le Pierrot Express. It had a water fountain in it. We didn’t sit near the fountain, but it was still cool. We sat upstairs, outside overlooking Rue De La Commune and the water. We both got wraps, and had a good time eavesdropping on the folks next to us. It was an older man and woman (I would guess a couple) and two early teen-aged boys. From the way they were talking, it didn’t appear that they were the kids—it was rather odd, but fun to listen in on.
After lunch, we walked down to the water to see about a boat ride. I was a little disappointed to learn that the boats were the same design that one finds on the Seine. That is, they are glass enclosed; so basically, you are sitting inside. I wanted to be on a real boat and feel the breeze and smell the water. Also, it looked like rain, so we decided that the boat ride wouldn’t be worth it. We walked over to the Centre des Sciences de Montréal and had our picture taken. They have digital cameras mounted to the side of the building and Xs on the ground where you should stand. For CAN$2, you can get your picture taken and download it from their website a few days later. That’s pretty cool. RC is always complaining that she doesn’t have any pictures of me without my sunglasses on, so now she does.
From there we walked up to Place Jacques-Cartier. RC’s Spidey senses started tingling, and she sussed out the Ben & Jerry’s. Fortunately, she came to her senses in the nick of time and realized that she would be better off to get something a little less American. So, we went next door and got a crêpe with a scoop of pistachio gelato inside and French vanilla on top. The vanilla was good; I don’t think RC really liked it, but since she put that nasty pistachio in it, I couldn’t finish it for her.
I’m not sure the sequence of events, but at some point, we ended up, once again, in a coffee shop, and RC got some kind of chocolate croissant. I didn’t want to, but I broke down and got some gelato.
On our way back to the hotel, it started to rain, so we ducked into the Place-des-Arts Metro Station. Now, I’m all for taking the Metro (in fact, I have a small obsession with subways and metros, particularly the London Underground, but that’s a different story), but what lay before us was something out of a fantasy. If you like shopping malls, you will have an orgasmic rush of excitement when you experience La ville souterraine. Now, I love malls almost as much as I love metros, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. We walked from the Old City to right near our hotel completely out of the rain. It was awesome! Unfortunately, we only stopped when RC wanted to (which means we stopped at a coffee shop so she could get coffee—but I got a Clearly Canadian Blackberry so I was happy.
When we got back to the hotel, we called a restaurant that a friend of mine recommended and got reservations at Laloux. This time, we drove to the restaurant. I had printed out directions from Mapquest, and of course they were out of date. There was construction, and the major road we needed was closed. But, we made it there just fine. In the end, it was not far from where we had walked the day before, so we could have easily walked it again, but that’s just how it goes when you’re in another country.
RC liked it better than I did, but it wasn’t bad. We started out with some kind of fusion egg roll. It wasn’t bad, but it was ridiculously expensive for the size; two small pieces came on a small platter. They were really good, but we could have stood for a few more. We each got a glass of the house wine: me red, her white. For our entrees, RC got the filet mignon, and I settled for some kind of chicken. I didn’t realize it was going to be full of sauce (tasty sauce mind you, but lots of it nonetheless), and my chicken was somewhat dry. RC got dessert (of course) and coffee (of course). After hearing about all the cheeses they had for dessert, she settled for crème brûlée. She had ordered a café au lait, but a little teeny, tiny cup showed up. As this was coffee, she was content to drink the espresso. When the waiter realized the mistake (about ½ way through that teeny, tiny cup), he brought the café au lait over and exchanged it for the espresso. Obviously, RC was flying high for quite some time. So, we did the only thing one should do when they are doped up on caffeine: we went gambling.
We drove back to the hotel and got a cab out to the Casino de Montréal. There were lots of flashing lights, lots of people, and lots of noise. The highly caffeinated RC was like a playful kitten; she didn’t know where to look first and everything caught her attention. We played the slots for a while, and then we headed upstairs where there was this big ole horseracing track in the middle of the room. Upon the track were miniature horses and jockeys. On the wall was a monitor that played animation of the race. You bet on the horses you think will win. It was kind of hokey, but all the tables were full. The young woman next to us I think was getting annoyed at our jabber: “how does this work?”, “What’s this button for?”, “Where do I put the money?” Then on our 3rd race, we won about CAN$2. I’m sure she wasn’t happy about that, but then again, she seemed to have been doing all right.
We got a cab back to the hotel, and enjoyed the ride as we got to go over a bridge and see Montréal at night. It has a great nighttime skyline.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
We were again up and out early. We headed over to get RC a little hair of the dog that bit her the previous night. So, we went to her favorite spot in Montréal: Second Cup. After that, we embarked on “Walking Tour 4: Mount-Royal.” Now, if you are reading this entry, then you know me well enough to know that I’m not much of an outdoorsy kind of guy. But, I have to admit that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. We quickly ditched the walking tour because the trails were not clearly labeled nor was the tour in the book. Nevertheless, we made it to the top and got a majestic view of Montréal. I took some pics, so once I’ve processed them, we’ll see if they turned out. We got an Asian tourist to take our picture, but she got scared because she held the shutter release down too long, and the camera is set for continuous shots if you hold the button down. It was pretty funny—not that we could understand what she was saying to her companion. We went into the pavilion and got drinks and a snack before venturing back down the hill.
On the way down, we paused at the little lake and walked around that. Then, even though we were following the signs, we seem to have taken a wrong turn and ended up further over than where we started. Of course, it was even hotter in the baking sun than it was on the shaded trails, so RC wasn’t doing too well. Fortunately, I have a very keen sense of direction, and I was able to get us back on track, but not before making her walk in the sun much longer than her melanin-challenged skin should be exposed to the sun. We paused along the way on someone’s stoop in the shade, and she was good to go.
To escape the oppressive heat, we ducked into the Underground City to have lunch. Even though we had no idea how we actually made it from the Old City to the Hotel, somehow, today, when we randomly entered the Underground City to have lunch, we ended up at the same café that we had stopped for coffee the other day.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel to freshen up, but were soon off again. We walked down Rue University to Rue Saint-Jacques and headed over to the Old City. We went directly to the Pavillon Jacques-Cartier to get tickets for the ghost tour. After we bought the tickets, we headed out to get some dinner. We popped into the café St. Paul, which coincidently was on Rue Saint-Paul. RC ordered a burger avec fromage, and I got a smoked meat sandwich, apparently a delicacy in Montréal.
After dinner, we headed back to the Pavillon Jacques-Cartier to meet up with the tour. While we were waiting, we decided that it would be prudent to get money so we could get a cab after the walk. I left RC in the shade and ventured off to find an ATM. Since all the ones I found were the independently operated ones that you see in stores, none would accept an international bankcard. I met a very nice American couple along the way. They were at 3 of the 4 ATMs I tried; they were having the same problem. I went back to see how RC was doing, and she decided that she wanted an ice cream from one of the local vendors…we bought one for CAN$4. With still more time to kill, we walked along the promenade and watched all the street performers sing, dance and do whatever else they were doing as they tried to separate passers-by from their money.
Finally, the tour began. There were two guides who broke the group up into the tour in English and the one en Français. Our guide was dressed as the long deceased wife of a British general stationed in Montréal. I think that without the wig or make-up, she may have been cute, but it was hard to say. She was a little creepy, though, in that she was without shoes. How she was able to walk that far over cobblestone, grass, concrete, and the occasional manure is beyond me. I think I liked the walk more than RC did, but we were in agreement that it was relatively hard to hear the guide. Also, while she was good and animated, she was clearly French-Canadian, and her accent coupled with her attempt at a cockney accent didn’t help. We had a few rather obnoxious children, but kudos to their parents for doing something about it.
After the tour, we headed, once again, back to Pavillon Jacques-Cartier to enjoy the fireworks. Apparently, there was some international competition going on, so we watched that. I was amazed that the show lasted over ½ an hour. I wish I had brought my camera and tripod. But then again, I would have had to shlep them, so when I think about that part, I don’t really regret it too much.
On the way back to the hotel, we found a bank. I got money and we headed for the nearest cab. The guy took us to the wrong hotel, but since it was around the corner, we didn’t think he was really trying to rip us off.
After all that walking in the heat, we were beat and went straight to bed.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
If you guessed that we were up early again today, you’d be right. But this time it wasn’t for good reasons: we had to pack.
Before leaving, we still had one more thing to do: get bagels that are apparently unique to Montréal. We walked over to get them, and they turned out to be pretty good. On the way back, we stopped in a pastry, and RC got her pain au chocolat that she had been looking for the whole time. We went back to the hotel to finish packing and check out. She finished her bread before we left the room. Apparently, she took a small bite to taste it, and the next thing she knew it was all gone.
We checked out and got on the road heading south. It was pretty easy going until we got to the border. Not that it was bad there, but it was about a ½ hour wait until we finally got to the immigration officer. After looking at our passports, asking if we had anything to declare, and checking our trunk, he welcomed us home and wished us a safe journey.
As far as I can tell, Waterbury, VT is really only famous for 1 thing: the Ben & Jerry’s Factory is located there. We stopped and took the tour. It was absolutely amazing to me how many people were there. At the end of the tour, we got free samples of Apple Pie ice cream. We started to stand in line to get full scoops, but it was long, slow, and disgustingly hot. So, after the tour, and after seeing the Flavor Graveyard, we again hit the road.
We drove and drove and drove and drove some more. Since we were doing this side of the trip during the day, it was much prettier than when we drove up through New York (which is pretty as well when you can see it). RC liked all the mountains and trees. Finally, somewhere in Massachusetts, we stopped for dinner at an Uno Chicago Grill. Once sated, we drove a little longer. I felt that we shouldn’t drive into the middle of the night and get a room, only to sleep for a few hours. So, when we got to Connecticut, we stopped at a Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell, CT. On our way up to the room, RC noticed some errors in the sign for coffee in the elevator. I took a pic of it for the GrammarBlog.
We went to the bar for nightcaps. RC had a martini, and I had a gin and tonic. She was pretty drunk…it was quite entertaining and fun.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Friday was pretty quiet. We returned the car (now that we knew where we were going), and headed back to my apartment. We got biryani from Tiffin, a great Indian restaurant near my apartment. We watched TV, ate our rice, and went to bed.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Finally, we slept a little late. RC wanted to go to Annapolis, but somehow or another, we ended up going over the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge (or just Bay Bridge, as we affectionately call here in Merlind). We were going to go over and come straight back, but the traffic was insane going the other way, so we kept driving east. We finally ended up in St. Michaels, so we got out and walked around. We ate lunch at some dive diner called Chesapeake Cove Restaurant. RC got a cream of crab soup and a BLT (but turned it into a BL), and I was set to get the cheese steak, but our waitress (and she was definitely a waitress, as were all the chicks working there—but more of that anon) talked me into getting the lump crab omelet. The crabmeat was good, but the omelet was only so-so.
After lunch, we walked a bit more: through some shops and down to the water. RC got lemonade from some kids that were selling it on the street. The little girl started to cry because she drank out of the cup instead of giving it to RC. The one little boy took over her job as her mother picked her up and started holding her. The other little boy was dressed as a mage (not my word—that was what the sign said “get lemonade from a mage” or something similar). RC asked him to do a magic trick. He had good form for the first part, but still needed practice for the second part.
Our drive back was a piece of cake; there was no traffic at all.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
We’ve already started talking about the next vacation, so stay tuned. I’m hoping for Europe, but we’ll see.
I just flew in from Florida and boy are my arms tired! Thank you, I’ll be here all night. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.
Seriously, though, I was among the few in my office who were privileged to go down to the Kennedy Space Center to see the Return to Flight launch of Space Shuttle Discovery. Sadly, as you surely know, the launch got scrubbed because of some sensor. Everyone says that it’s better that we are being very careful, but I’m sure that the astronauts just want to get back to what it is that they are trained for.
It wasn’t a completely wasted trip, though. I got to eat at some really good places, and got to do some fun stuff. We had breakfast twice at the Simply Delicious Cafe and Bakery. It was very yummy, and I’m quite sure that RC would have loved it. It very much screamed of her: they served their orange juice in margarita glasses. We also had BBQ, but it wasn’t the greatest. I walked for about an hour on the beach. That was very nice. And I was in Cocoa Beach for a few days (days, I might mention, which may have otherwise found me in my office).
My hotel was awful! I had the distinct misfortune to stay at the Best Western. To say that it sucked would be saying nice things about it. When we got there, we checked in, and I headed to my room to drop off my luggage. I walked into the room, and before I could even let go of my luggage, I turned around and walked out. It smelled so unbelievably foul. It was a smoking room, and it clearly had been used as such for hundreds of years. I headed across the street to the lobby (yes, the lobby was in its own building across the street). The guy behind the counter told me that there was nothing he could do because the hotel was fully booked. I told him that there was no way that I would be able to stay in the room. He told me that I had to speak with the guy from NASA who booked the room. So, I called said person, and he assured me that he would fix the problem as soon as he got there. He was at the Best Western within minutes, and pitched such a fit that they finally caved in and switched me with someone who hadn’t yet registered. My new room wasn’t too much better, but at least it didn’t reek as strongly. The day before we flew out, I went over to the lobby to use the computer and check in at the airline's website. I printed out my boarding pass and headed back to my room. When I got there, I swiped my keycard and nothing happened. I tried again, and still nothing. Finally, after the third time, I started back to the lobby to tell them that something was wrong with my keycard, when some guy and his kid got out of a truck and said, “hey, is that your stuff sprawled on the bed?” Um, yea. Those stupid fucks resold my room before I checked out of it. The other guy and his kid lucked out because the hotel gave them a free upgrade to an oceanfront room. What did I get? I got a new keycard.
The first evening we split up. Several of the gang went out for Cuban; I wanted to go to the receptions, so I opted out (it turned out they never made it). The SEAL Leader, the Virginian, and I went to crash some receptions. We headed over to the Double tree (interestingly enough it was the same Double tree I stayed at last year when I came down to see the MESSENGER launch. See busy weekend part 3 for that story). We couldn’t get into one because the bouncers asked us for our invitations, and we had none, so we pretended that we were just looking around and slowly backed towards the door. We went around the corner to the bar and there we found another party that we were allowed to attend. They had pretty good food: shrimp, chicken, roast beef, sushi, and really, really good cheese cake. Oh, yeah, and it was an open bar.
Later that night the SEAL Leader and I drove onto base and got as close as we could to Discovery, but like the dumb ass that I am, I didn’t bring my camera down at all. Even still, it’s a memory I will have for a long time. We drove up as close as we could get with our Headquarters badges. The guard house was on a road that looked directly toward the pad, and as we approached the checkpoint, there it was, lit up like daylight. It was such an amazing sight to see. I know that I have little (in fact nothing really) to do directly with getting the Shuttle into orbit, but damn if it didn’t bring a tear of pride to my eye to see that bright white Shuttle mated to the Halloween-Orange External Tank, the two white pencil-like boosters on either side. It was so cool. It looked just like a postcard except that it was bigger, more real, and more awe inspiring.
The next morning, 4 of us headed to Grouper’s Corner to assist visitors getting onto busses that would ferry them out to the Causeway. Two of us stayed behind to be at the point of embarkation, and the other two headed out to the Causeway to be on the other end. It was really, friggin’ hot; fortunately, we had water in the van.
At some point very close to the launch, 2 guys came up to us livid. Apparently one was the son of a Congressman, and he had gotten the run-around about where he was supposed to be. He believed that he was supposed to be at the Banana Creek site (where all the VIPs were), but the list showed him as being at the Causeway. Several days ago, I was instructed to call all of the Congressmen who had RSVPed that they were planning on going to the launch and checking to see if they were having family coming separately. The point of these calls was to give them info on how we would get all the Members together with their families. As such, I felt that whether or not Junior’s father was in attendance, he should in fact be at the Banana Creek site. I tried to call several people, but signal strength is quite farkackt down there, so of course I couldn’t get anyone and had to leave messages. Finally, I was able to get through to someone who told me to get them to the area where the busses were picking up folks to go to Banana Creek. So, Junior, his friend, and I jumped into the van and headed out to the other site. Fortunately, Junior and his buddy had done this drive twice before, so they were able to direct me. Rather effortlessly we made it, and I ignored a guard who told me I couldn’t park in that lot. As the time was growing short, and there would have been no way to get back to Grouper’s Corner before the last bus headed out to the Causeway, I was told to just get on the bus that was heading out to Banana Creek. The bus pulled out, and turned onto the main road. As soon as the bus righted itself, it had to stop at the checkpoint. One of the ladies on the bus showed the guard our pass, and at that moment we got the call that the launch was scrubbed, so the driver just made a right back into the parking lot. Junior and his buddy wanted to get back on the road, so I drove them back to Grouper’s Corner (where they had left their car).
The rest of the night was pretty uneventful; we sat around and told war stories about what happened and what would likely happen in the coming days. I was told that there was little chance of me getting to go back whenever the launch finally happens. I figured as much, and that is fine with me. Even though it didn’t launch, it was still pretty cool to be here for the excitement. I’m sure that if I’m still at NASA, I will have other opportunities to see a shuttle launch.
I went to NYC Sunday night. Because Saturday and Sunday were the Seders, I couldn’t leave for New York until late. My dad drove me to the train station in time to hop the 9:40 train. I didn’t get into the City until after midnight. I stayed at the Club Quarters, Midtown. It was quite nice and had a very European feel to it. It was on 45th between 5th and 6th. As I was walking down to Times Square on Monday morning, I walked by Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant, which is where Black 47 plays every Saturday night. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there on a Saturday.
Anyway, I was in NYC because I had to take a training course for my job. It was called “Stepping Up to Leadership,” and it’s really designed for secretaries, but that is how it works when you were an administrative professional for 2 years. I was really expecting to hate it and be bored to tears for the whole 3 days. But, I have to say that it was actually pretty fun. We had a good group who were all interesting, and all wanted to participate, so that made it much better than it could it have been.
So, this is a real abbreviated entry of 3 days, but all I really did was go to class, go to dinner, and go back to the hotel to go to sleep. As I made it to the gym every day last week, I am happy to say that I went down to the “fitness room” (that is, a room in the basement that had 2 treadmills, a bike, and a stairmaster) Monday and Tuesday—45 minutes each day on the treadmill!
Wow, what an interesting experience I had this evening. I went to a club called Wet in DC’s Ghe-Toe. It is down in Anacostia. But it’s actually about two blocks from the Navy Yard station, which I believe is not too far from Eastern Market, so I’m thinking that it may not be as bad as it once was…not that I would be frequenting such an establishment.
Well, to bring the less informed up to speed, Wet is a gay nudie bar…boys dancing on the bar with nothing but their tube socks (to collect tips—sort of the gay male stripper’s garter). Actually, some had more than that on: a flak jacket, a policeman’s utility belt (complete with cuffs and billy club), the top half of a marine’s uniform. At the far end of the bar is a large shower stall with several jets of water spewing in every direction—all the better to ensure that every inch of the body will become, well, Wet. Meanwhile, as the live show is going on upon the three-quarter thrust stage that is the bar, and drama is occurring behind the proscenium of the shower stall, there is another stage along the length-wise wall, which supports at one point in the evening the Cowboy (sans chaps), the Marine, some random dancer and the Child (we shall come back to the Child anon). Across the room, by the door is a lone solo stage, with its own spotlight and stripper pole. To complete the mise-en-scène, arranged in banks of 4 in opposite corners of the joint are televisions showing hardcore gay porn.
I did not go alone. Shining Starr9, Lady Godiva, and the Lady’s gay roommate all went. The girls had never been to a gay nudie bar, and the roomie, I guess, just wanted to see some naked boys.
So, while we were sitting at the table, watching the myriad entertainment, I spy the Child lounging on the solo stage without his shirt on. (Actually, we met him when we first walked in; he almost knocked over the guy who was checking our IDs with a big bear hug. Then he attacked Shining Starr9’s jacket that he thought was so wonderful and amazing (it was a nice jacket, I mean no disrespect on the apparel, but it was a GIRL’s jacket). Anyway, so we watch him run (literally) around the club chatting with the patrons (us included). There is no doubt in any of our minds that he is on something and higher than a kite. So, he’s lounging on the stage and then he gets up and starts, um, well, I wouldn’t call it dancing, it was more a fevered, coked-up frenzy. I turn away and when I look again, he is naked and dancing his little, overworked, 19-year-old heart out. He looks like he should be hanging 10 on a surfboard in Hawaii, not stripping in a dive in DC. The very first thing that strikes me about this boy is that he is hired not for his dancing abilities, but for his pre-pubescent look (and sure enough, it is the older, lonelier men who pay him the most attention--and money). He still has baby fat around his tummy and no hair on his body, save pubes. Unlike his older co-workers, I don’t think he is shaving yet…chin or chest. Few are paying attention to him, but he doesn’t seem to care: he’s a maniac, maniac on the floor and he's dancing like he's never danced before. He has three moves: 1) gyrate his hips to get his penis and testicles (and he had some long, dangling, pendulous balls) flopping up to hit his stomach over and over ad nauseam; 2) wiggle himself around, then shimmy his way to a squat, grab the back of his head with his left hand and shimmy on up again; and 3) really a variation of 1, he would put both hands behind his head and gyrate his hips to get his penis and testicles (and he had some long, dangling, pendulous balls) flopping up to hit his stomach over and over ad nauseam. God bless him for being so damn impassioned with what he was doing.
So, it was “Wet Underwear Night” this evening, and before your sick little minds go too far, I shall reassure you that Jo Cose remained dry and his tighty-whities stayed well hidden. The roomie, on the other hand, did enter the contest. At the risk of offending Lady Godiva, I will leave the description of the roomie at this: he was not the most attractive man in the joint. Ne’ertheless, he had some big balls (figuratively, I mean). He and 4 other strapping lads stripped to their unmentionables and pranced and danced around the bar for about 10 minutes (9 too long if you ask me). Then the second part of the contest was individual shower scenes, each lasting 5 minutes (again, 4 too long). In the end, all 5 contestants got naked in the showers. I found it interesting that I was more disturbed to see the roomie naked than the rest of the boys; not because he was less attractive or anything like that, but I guess because I had only met him several hours earlier and I didn’t know the rest of the amateurs at all, I didn’t have to share a ride home with them. Anyway, so 15 minutes of humiliation for the chance to win $250. I don’t think it was really worth it. Sadly, the roommate did not win. But I give him big kudos for entering.
Anyway, it’s almost 4 am and I need to go to sleep…peace out y’all.