The Sabra got her travel documents yesterday. That means we have cleared yet another hurdle in this arduous Green Card process. This is good news; she is now free to move about the world, and she is already talking about going back to the Holy Land for about a month (this, too, is good, as I will go for 2 weeks to visit--I could use a vacation and a good fixin' of Shawarma!).
We're thinking sometime in November, but I have a launch then, so I'm not sure how that will play out.
Now we are waiting for the temporary work permit (which will be temporary for 2 years...then we will have a second interview and it will be permanent). We are also waiting for the first interview.
So, we wait. But in the meantime, thanks to ICE for not forgetting about us.
a good cupcake recipe?
I was in New Orleans a few weeks ago on business. I flew in on Sunday (July 20) and left the following Saturday. Sunday night, I walked the 2 blocks from my hotel to the start of Bourbon Street. I walked from Canal Street all the way down Bourbon StreetRue Bourbon until I got into the gay part of town. It was still light out, but even so, you could tell that not too much was going to happen. It was, after all Sunday.
I got a Po’ Boy at some random establishment that actually had jazz. Then, it was back to the hotel to get ready for the next day—I had to be at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to set up our exhibit. After the exhibit was set up, we had the rest of the day to goof off. So, I pulled out my camera, and my buddy and I walked all over New Orleans and, of course, the French Quarter.
I was surprised to see that every corner didn’t have some dude on a trumpet…that is how I have always envisioned the Crescent City. I was saddened to see (hear, actually) nothing but loud (and I mean fucking loud) rock & roll and dance music spewing into the street as forcefully as the air conditioning. We did pass a few joints where you could hear jazz, but they were few and far between, and they were competing with the melodic chords of Van Halen and some rave remix. What little jazz I did hear was great. I love jazz.
We went to a bunch of restaurants including Red Fish Grill, Cochon Restaurant, Ralph & Kacoo’s, Crescent City Brew house, Mulate’s, and Café Beignet. Of course, we had Hurricanes at the famous Pat O’Brien’s (although we were there early, so there were no dueling pianos. That was kind of sad). Even though I ate well, and paid dearly for it (both figuratively and literally), I have to be honest…I was rather disappointed in the food. I mean it was tasty and all, but I felt that I have had better “Cajun” cuisine up here in the District.
The rest of the time was dedicated to actual work, but in the evenings, we ended up back on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Overall, it was a fun experience. I got to see New Orleans, which I’ve always wanted to do. I had my first taste of moonshine. I had a shot of Catdaddy first, but it tasted like Tequila, so the waiter brought me a shot of Virginia White Lightening. Man, did that taste fantastic. I also rode on a mechanical bull at the Bourbon Cowboy. So, now I have scratched 2 more things off my Things To Do Before I Die list.
As calm as it was (given that I was there during the week and it’s not Mardi Gras), it was clear that debauchery is still a constant, and that people still party all day and all night. New Orleans definitely missed out when it came to taglines. I think that “What happens in Nahlins stays in Nahlins” is much more apropos than Vegas (granted, I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but still).
All in all, I had a good time. I was disappointed that there wasn’t as much jazz as the city is known for. I was also sad that I didn’t get decent, proper Creole and Cajun food. I understand that after Hurricane Katrina the Crescent City ain’t what she used to be, but at the same time, things are happening again down there. I can only hope that the next time I go, even more folks will have returned.
Where do pieces of luggage go when they run away? What does one do when it happens? Should I contact the milk industry to have a picture put on the cartons? Should I tack flyers to the telephone poles? Would John Walsh be interested in producing an exposé on my baggage?
I worked ½ a day on April 10th, then met the Sabra in front of the building formerly known as the Department of Transportation at L’Enfant Plaza. We took the 5A to Washington Dulles International Airport. Once we were at the airport, we checked in at the British Airways desk, deposited our luggage, and headed to security. Once past security, we hopped onto those fun busses they have out there at Dulles—they are actually called Mobile Lounges if you really want to know—and went to the gate to settle in while we waited for the plane. We sat and talked for a bit, availed ourselves of the services (if you know what I mean), and watched the young women who were returning to London after touring New York City and Washington, DC with their school. Once we boarded, we discovered that one young lady was sitting in the window seat next to us. Apparently, she was afraid not of the flying, but of take-off. Several of her school friends came by to see how she was doing, and she said that she would be fine. I offered her the Sabra’s hand to hold during ascent, but she assured us that her stuffed animal would be fine. A few minutes before we taxied onto the tarmac, one of her friends came round and told her that there was an empty seat near her if she wanted to sit there. After the Sabra and I assured her that it wouldn’t be a bother to us if she got up and came back, she did in fact get up, and after we could move about the cabin, she did in fact return to her seat by the window. She put her headphones on and slept almost the entire way.
After dinner and a glass of red wine, I wrapped myself up in an overly staticy blanket and turned on the in-flight entertainment. I watched The Golden Compass. I have to be honest, I was somewhat disappointed. I don’t really remember the book so well, so I’m not sure it followed the script, and to be fair, it was sort hard to hear and the screen was quite small. After the movie, I went to sleep. I woke up about an hour and a half before we landed at Heathrow Airport. During the interim, I watched an episode of Futurama.
Heathrow was quiet when we arrived, and we thought about sitting down and having a proper English breakfast, but alas, we didn’t have enough time for that, and yet we had too much time to do nothing. After finding our gate and going to the bathroom, we walked around Terminal 4 and bought some candy…for little other reason than to use up some quid I had from the last trip to Old Blighty.
The Sabra’s friend who works at British Airways helped us get on the same flights so we could travel together. Unfortunately, the second leg of our journey didn’t work out quite as well as we had hoped. Our tickets said that we were sitting in different rows, so, when the folks arrived to work the gate, I went up and asked if they could help us out so we could sit together. The woman informed me that it would not be possible because a) it was a full flight, and b) I was sitting in a higher class of seats than her. So, poor me had to sit in a nice wide, comfy chair with a foot rest abreast a young, attractive Brit, while the poor Sabra had to sit in the last row of the plane with large, snoring guys around her. I actually felt bad that I didn’t offer her to sit in the better seats. Oh, well.
So, once we were airborne and the cabin crew could deliver food, they did. I ate something hot and tasty, and watched another movie. This time it was Enchanted. It was a cute movie, and I thought it was a clever twist on the same ole same ole. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure how it ended as I fell asleep almost ¾ of the way through. This is not a critique of the movie, however. I was just very tired from flying for so long.
We finally arrived in the Holy Land. After 16 years of being away, I was finally back. You must understand that I first went to Israel during the winter of 1988–1989. I spent 8 days in country that winter and fell in love. I went back on the same trip a year later. The year after that, I spent 3 weeks, primarily in Jerusalem at Ohr Somayach on their JLE program. Not even a year later, (JLE was in the winter, and I returned in June), I was back at Ohr Somayach, where I stayed for my sophomore year of college. After that, I returned once more the winter of 1992–1993 to visit, and have not been back since. To say that I was overcome with emotion would be stretching it a bit too far, but I was a little saddened that flying on British Airways is a very different experience than when I used to fly on Tower Air, or Chassidish Air as we used to refer to it. Flying with a plane full of orthodox Jews gives a whole new meaning to the expression “a wing and a prayer.” (On one of my flights, someone was transporting a Torah, and it happened to be a Monday or Thursday that we were flying. As such, during the morning services, they opened the Torah and read from it. It is one of my fondest religious memories.) Landing in Israel aboard a Tower Air flight was surreal. As soon as the back wheels made that screeching sound of hitting the ground, people would start applauding and break out into a round of Hevenu Shalom Aleichem. That enthusiasm seems to have died with Tower. I must confess that I did hum to myself. Looking out the window, all I could see was tarmac and the other requisite airport accoutrement, but I know I was back. I knew I was with my people. I knew that I was once again about to set foot on hallowed ground.
After disembarking, we had to separate to go through customs. For the first time since I met the Sabra, I was now the foreigner. We met up again on the other side of customs and headed to get our luggage. As we were walking, we saw a young woman standing and appearing to be waiting for something. As we approached, the Sabra realized that it was her friend who works at Ben Gurion International Airport. I was introduced, and they chatted as I labored to handle our two overflowing bags (Israelis always bring tons of American shit back with them because stuff is so much cheaper here). After I got the bags, we said goodbye to her friend and headed out the door. My heart was beating hard and fast. The moment had come.
As the electric doors that separated international arrivals from their loved ones and hired drivers swooshed open, I spotted her mother immediately. She was jumping up and down with excitement. It had been many months since she had seen her daughter and her first time meeting me face-to-face. She also knew that her son and daughter-in-law would be arriving later in the day (actually the next day—at 3 am—to be exact), and for the first time in about 6 years, she would have all of her children again under one roof. She pounced on us like a cat onto cheese and gave us warm, welcoming bear hugs. It was a great way to meet the family for the first time. We walked over to the rest of the family, and I said hello and shook hands with her younger brother and father.
After pleasantries were done, we headed out into the parking lot to go home. The first things that I saw were palm trees and blue skies. I could smell flowers in bloom and cigarette smoke. I heard birds chirping and people cursing. I felt comfortable, safe; I had returned home. I was brought back to reality: honking car horns and people who were in a hurry shoving me out of the way. Yes, indeed. I was back in Israel.
We got out of the airport and onto the main road. We were heading south to Gedera, where the Sabra is from and her parents still live. I sat in the front with her father, and he pointed out interesting sites along the way: kibbutzim, towns, and other places of interest. When we got to Rehovot, we drove past a Moshav where an old friend of mine used to live (and I spent a weekend). Instead of heading straight home, we swung by the army base where the Sabra did her paratrooper training. I found it more interesting than I think she thought I did. We finally reached Chez Sabra, and we took our bags to our room and unpacked some of the gifts we had brought.
It was late in the day, but the Sabra and I walked a bit around Gedera. I got to see the oldest building in town, the street with some restaurants and new stores, and one of the main parks, Gan Bilu. We also went past the school that she attended as a child. The school and the street on which her parents’ house sits are named after a famous Zionist leader, Rabbi Yehiel Michael Pines. This is not particularly interesting until you understand that while his name is spelled Pines, it is pronounced with a long i, and a short e. As such, when saying it aloud, one does not pronounce it like the tree, but rather like the male genitalia. As an immature American, I giggle every time I ask the Sabra where she lives in Gedera.
After our walk around town, we returned to the house where her mother was putting finishing touches on dinner: Israeli salad, avocado salad, and bulbonic (a potato kugel that is very tasty and not unlike something my ain dear mammy used ta make). Since her dad needed to be up ridiculously early to pick her brother and sister-in-law up from the airport, we went to bed relatively early.
On Saturday, we got up and walked around some more. This time, we walked the other direction and strolled through Moshav Kidron. There are some new, hip looking houses there. We saw a house for sale when we crossed back into Gedera, and took down the number to call the realtor on Sunday (alas, it was already under contract). We got back in time to help clear the table and get ready for lunch. We had barbeque. It was insane. There was so much food, and I wasn’t shy about eating, that’s for sure. It was all so good, too.
After lunch, the Sabra, her 2 brothers, her sister-in-law, and I headed over to Ashdod to go down to the beach. It was a beautiful evening with a warm Mediterranean breeze blowing off the water. It was also packed. There were a ton of people at the picnic area grilling on small, portable grills, and equally as many people strolling along the promenade. Everyone seemed so calm and at peace. I took a bunch of pictures, but it was cloudy, so this shot was the best I could come up with (although I do like this one as well). After the beach, we went home, chatted a bunch, then went to bed.
Sunday was a big day—it was the Sabra’s grooming day. It started with walking to the post office to get money changed, then to the manicurist so the Sabra could get her nails done. That was weird. I sat in the waiting room (which was really the dining room of an apartment that had been converted into a manicurist’s studio. She tried to talk to me several times, but as I don’t speak the language, it was kind of hard to understand her—not to mention that everything is made of concrete in Israel, so sound echoes a lot in empty apartment dining rooms that have been converted in to waiting rooms for manicurists’ studios. After her nails were done (French manicure), we returned home and headed out to Rehovot so the Sabra could get her hair done. I chose to hang with her brother and sister-in-law. We ended up at the mall, which wasn’t exactly what I was looking to do, but it was fine. I did find strawberry Bamba. I didn’t think Bamba could get any more disgusting…I was wrong. We returned home and picked up the Sabra’s parents and headed to Ashdod. Since it was her mom’s birthday, we went to lunch there in an Argentinean restaurant. I got pargit (young chicken) kabobs. After lunch, we headed home for a bit, and then went back out to pick up the Sabra’s younger brother from Beit Noam in Kiryat Ono. Then we had to get ready for the party.
As I mentioned, Sunday was the Sabra’s mother’s birthday, so we headed out to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, where they had rented the café. The catered food was amazing. It was all vegetarian (so the Sabra was pretty happy). Everyone seemed so excited to be there to help the Sabra’s mother celebrate her birthday. It was a little overwhelming for me as I got to meet the extended family for the first time. Fortunately, the Sabra’s cousins were there with their new baby, so they were more the center of attention than I was. I sat next to a couple who were quite fluent in English (in fact she was from the UK, and he had studied there), so that was nice. After a long day of eating, we ended the night with a nosh and then it was off to bed.
After coming downstairs from showering on Monday morning, I discovered that there was a bit of a to-do in the house. Apparently, one of the presents hadn’t made it home. Now, I was responsible for transporting the gifts from the café to the car, and from the car to the house, so I felt a little guilty as I was afraid that I was responsible for losing it. So, the Sabra, her friend, her brother, her sister-in-law, and I went back to Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and checked with the folks in the café. To my relief, it was there behind the counter, waiting for us to pick up. Since we were at the Weizmann Institute anyway, we decided to head over to Beit Weizmann where Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, lived. After going through the house and seeing his grave, we headed back to the mall, and I had a very authentic, Middle Eastern lunch: KFC. We went to a local schwarma place for dinner and got some lafa and brought it home to eat. It was D-LISH!
Tuesday finally came, and I was so excited because Tuesday was to be Jo Cose’s day. The Sabra’s friend (the same one who met us at the airport) came by and picked us up. And we were off, racing up the highway on our way to Tel Aviv. We started our adventures in Yaffo because I wanted to go through the Shuk Ha-Pishpishim. We tried on some fezzes, I bought a mezuzah for my nephew, and the Sabra tried on some pants that she didn’t buy in the end. I was looking for some Christian-type stuff from a friend at work, and the guy was doing his best to see it to me. He told me that he was a Cohen and wanted to get of all the non-Jewish stuff he had because he wasn’t comfortable with it. I chuckled, and the Sabra got mad at me. I doubt he was really a Cohen, and who knows if he was even religious (even if he was wearing a yarmulke). Again, I only got 2 good pictures at the Shuk, this one and this one. We walked around the port some more and ate lunch at Dr. Shakshuka. I’m not a big fan of shakshuka, but 1) the Sabra loves it, 2) Dr. Shakshuka is one of those world famous restaurants, and 3) it’s a Tripolitan restaurant, and I’ve never had Libyan food before. Like many places, they had an open kitchen, and they had 4 burners set up so that the cook overlooked the customers (clearly designed for us to watch the cook make the shakshuka. The guy who was cooking was definitely hamming it up. He’d crack the egg, then fling it into the pans from across the burners. Naturally, I pulled out my camera and started snapping away. Sadly, none came out. After the cook had made the order he was making, he came out into the dining area. I stopped him to show him the pics I had of him, and he dragged me up into the kitchen. They took my camera, placed 3 pans on the burners, then showed me how he flung the eggs. I did my best to copy him, and succeeded on my first attempt. A group of German tourists who were watching started applauding. Then I tried again with the next pan, and f’ed it up bad. I got nervous, so I cracked the egg too hard, and the shell shattered in my hand. Clearly the cook was afraid that I’d get shells in the shakshuka because he pushed me out of the way and cracked a new egg into it. Either way, I can say that I made shakshuka at Dr. Shakshuka. We also got to see Dana International, who definitely has an interesting story. We didn’t talk to her, but I got a picture of her back. After lunch we went back to the car because the Sabra’s friend had to get to work.
The Sabra and I started walking toward Dizengoff Square, but got sidetracked when we got to the Nahalat Binyamin Market. We walked up and down the sidewalk looking at all the crafts. I bought my nephews some hand-painted Hebrew letters that spelled out their names. We bumped into the Sabra’s brother, sister-in-law, and her brother’s friend. We chatted with them for a few minutes, then we moved on.
We got a cab and headed to Ramat Gan to meet up with an old friend of mine from my yeshiva days. It was really nice to see someone that I hadn’t seen in 16 years, but it was also a little awkward. I wanted to reminisce, I wanted to have a good laugh about the old days. Unfortunately, he didn’t have quite as fond of memories as I did, so it didn’t work out so well for me. No matter, it was still a lot of fun to hang out and talk and see someone that I hadn’t seen in 16 years.
After chatting for a bit and having some cake and drink, we piled into my friend’s car and he drove us back into Tel Aviv and picked up a cab to head over to the Sabra’s friend’s apartment. From there, we drove to Herzliya for dinner. We met 3 of the Sabra’s friends from college. They all lived together in the dorms, and they have remained friends ever since. We went to a place called Bleecker, which is right in the marina, so all the sailboats were lined up. It was a beautiful night, and the sliding walls were all open, and people were sitting outside, but we were still a little chilly, so we sat inside. I had schnitzel. It was mediocre.
Of course we missed the last bus back to Gedera and of course it was my fault for not keeping track of the time. So, we went back to the apartment and waited for the Sabra’s father to drive up and pick us up. As I mentioned, it was a beautiful night, and there was no traffic, so it was a good night for driving.
On Wednesday, we headed back to Ashdod. The Sabra’s father had a meeting there, and the Sabra had a doctor’s appointment. I tagged along. We got dropped off at the mall, right by the guy who thought that urinating on the side of the building in front of God and Country was an appropriate place to whip out his manhood and relieve the pressure on his bladder. We walked through the mall and into the business section, went up the elevator and into the office. I sat in the waiting room where the young (attractive) woman behind the desk asked for my help. She needed me to carry the heavy bottle of water from the storage room around to the water machine and put the bottle in place. Now, this young (attractive) woman was clearly not long out of the Army, so why is she asking an old man like me to do such laborious labor?
After the doctor, we headed back through the mall looking for food. We ended up at a place called Roast Beef Bar. It was like a Subway, but so much better. We sat outside and ate. Meanwhile someone who the Sabra went to school with came walking by with her kid. They exchanged pleasantries, and then the woman and kid went on their way. When we finished, we called the Sabra’s father to come and get us, and we while we waited, we went and bought watermelon seeds (mmm mmm mmm, I loves me some watermelon seeds!).
That night, I got to experience what it was like to be Joe Israeli. We went to the supermarket at Bilu Center in Rehovot. The grocery store was weird! They had normal stuff you’d expect to see at a grocery store, like, say, groceries, but they also had electronics and refrigerators and washing machines. It was quite odd. I bought some yogurt for breakfast and some strawberry Bamba because after seeing it the other day, I had to try it. The Sabra bought some Bamba for my nephew who loves the crap, and I bought some chocolate for the office.
Thursday was by far the highlight of the trip! We took the bus to Jerusalem. When we got to the central bus station in the Holy City, we called another friend of mine, the Gib, that I hadn’t seen either for 16 years. The Sabra and I walked to Machane Yehuda where we met him. We walked through the market, then down to Zion Square in downtown Jerusalem. We walked past the Underground (which, by now has closed its doors for the last time), and had some lunch in a pay-by-the-pound vegetarian place (the Sabra was happy about that). After that, we walked down Ben Yehuda Street past Meah Shearim on our way to Yeshiva. It was absolutely crazy to be there after 16 years. We had to leave the Sabra outside (the have gates now and only one entrance) since she’s a girl and all. We saw the guy who was (and still is apparently) in charge of the dorms. He remembered me pretty quickly, but not the Gib…at first anyway. Once he got it, it all came flooding back (in fact, we think he sniffed the Gib to see if he smelled of herb). He gave us a tour of the place…it’s changed so much since we were there. There were a few bochers around (it was erev Pesach, so it was pretty dead), and they seemed a little frightened. We saw the old cook who also remembered me, but not the Gib (who was somewhat offended, I think). We had a great time talking about the old days and what we did where and with whom. It was exactly what I was looking for. Finally, the tour was over, and it was time to leave. We headed back out, and the Gib took pics of me and the Sabra touching each other in front of the Yeshiva (scandalous!).
From the Yeshiva, we headed down Highway 1 to the Old City. Before we got there, we stopped in the travel agency where another Gibraltarian I went to school with works and hung out with him for a bit before pressing on. We walked through the Armenian Quarter then on into the Arab Quarter before finally passing into the Jewish Quarter. We walked through the shuk and haggled with some of the vendors. I bought my nephews little green shirts with the IDF logo on them. I also bought postcards for them, and I bought a box of holy water, holy dirt, holy incense, and holy spice for a friend at work. The Gib and I went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Deir es-Sultan, an Ethiopian church I never even knew was there. It was pretty cool. Finally, we made our way to the Western Wall. For such a drab, old wall, it really is one of the most beautiful sites in the world. I don’t consider myself to be particularly religious or spiritual, but there is something about seeing that wall and knowing that my peeps prayed behind it 2,000 years ago is pretty amazing! I put the prayers that folks from the office gave me into the cracks, and gave a little charity and got a red string to tie around my wrist to protect me from the evil eye.
Finally, we headed out of the Old City and walked to a café to get something to drink. I got tea with fresh mint leaves in it…yummy. The Gib and I continued to entertain the Sabra with our stories from our yeshiva days. I’m sure that we entertained a few folks sitting around us as well. Sadly, the Gib had a party to go to and we had to part ways. We promised that we would see each other again before another 16 years were up! The Sabra and I walked back to the bus station and went home. It was bittersweet to get into bed that night. On the one hand I was so friggin’ tired from all that walking that I was so happy to finely hit the pillow, but I was sad because I didn’t want to leave Jerusalem.
I woke up Friday and decided that I wanted to go back to Jerusalem. An old friend of mine (if you are guessing I hadn’t seen him in 16 years, you are wrong—it had only been 15 years) had called me when we were in Jerusalem on Thursday, but we didn’t have time to hook up and I really wanted to see him. So, the Sabra’s father dutifully took me to the bus stop, and it turned out that we missed the bus at that stop, so we jumped in the car and started to drive to the next stop. From out of nowhere, the bus pulls up behind us at a red light, so now we are racing to get to the stop before the bus does. Fortunately, we made it, and I was again on my way to Jerusalem, this time all by myself. When I got to the bus station I called the Costa Rican, and we arranged to meet for lunch. I had a few hours to kill, so I walked back to Machane Yehuda and took some pictures (see here and here and here). I took the bus down to Meah Shearim and impressed myself because I was able to talk to the bus driver all in Hebrew. In Meah Shearim, I headed over to see if the Olive Wood Factory was open. Sadly, since it was erev Shabbos and erev Pesach, most of Meah Shearim was closed (what wasn’t was all hustle-bustle buying last minute stuff for the holiday and burning chumitz. I didn’t remember so many bonfires to burn your bread [see here and here and here and here]). I decided that I would see if my memory was still as good as I thought. I turned out that it was. I was able to find the back route that we would take to get from the bars back to Yeshiva. Needless to say, I did indeed find my way. I was so impressed with myself.
About the time I found myself back at the Yeshiva, the Costa Rican called me to see where I was. I told him, and we decided on a place to meet. He picked me up, and we headed back into town to grab some lunch. We stopped at a liquor store to buy some wine (which I also did for the Seder), then we went to some hole-in-the-way place where we got hummus and falafel. We talked and talked and talked and got caught up on the past 15 years. Then he drove me back to the bus station, and I headed back to Gedera. I asked the driver to let me know when we reached my stop, but it was still one of the scariest bus rides of my life. When I was going to school there, I would travel from one city to the next, but it was generally from one central bus station to the next. This trip was to a random bus stop I the middle of the street in a random town. But, I did good, and got to where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to.
Saturday was busy with all the last minute stuff for Pesach, which finally came. The Sabra’s extended family came and soon we were gathered around the table, ready to start. Her mother went out and bought 2 Haggadahs that had English and Hebrew: one for me, and one for the Sabra’s sister-in-law. We went around the table reading, and when it came to the two of us, we read in English while everyone else read in Hebrew. Yea, it was kind of awkward, but it was OK. Dinner was, of course, delicious, and everyone had a great time.
Sunday was spent hanging out and packing.
Sadly, Monday came, and it was time to go home. Of course, Monday had barely come. The Sabra’s brother and sister-in-law’s flight was crazy early in the morning, so instead of making her father drive to the airport twice, we got up early and went with them. We left the house around 4:30 in the morning. It made for one long day. The flights were pretty uneventful. I watched National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which was OK. It was, like most of Nicolas Cage’s movies, exactly what you’d expect. Not too great story, not too great acting, but thoroughly enjoyable. After that, I watched Juno, which I wasn’t expecting to like, but Ellen Page is a hottie, and a good actor. I also fell in love with the soundtrack.
We finally made it home to BWI. My one brother-in-law was supposed to pick us up from the airport, but it turned out that my other brother-in-law was in the neighborhood, so he got us instead. When we got to the curb to meet him, we were 2 suitcases lighter than when left Ben Gurion International Airport. We filled out the paperwork for them to deliver our bags. We headed back to my parents house to see my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew who live in Oregon. They were on this coast for Pesach. Finally, after God knows how many hours, we finally went home and went to bed.
Tuesday came and the Sabra’s luggage showed up. Mine didn’t. But, after 2 weeks of calling British Airways every day to find the status of my luggage and over $200 in replacements, I did finally get my bag back. It was wet and my clothes smelled of mildew. One of my gifts was ruined. All I got from British Airways was “Thank you for flying with British Airways.” Not even an “I’m sorry.” These idiots admitted that until my bag got back on a plane, they had no idea where (literally) in the world it was. They thought it was in London, but it could have just as likely still been in Tel Aviv or even in Timbuktu. Now, I have to play the waiting again. I submitted my receipts for reimbursement, but it can take 6-8 weeks for them to process my request (and that’s before they decide if they are in fact going to grant me the privilege of reimbursing me). I was just told today that I can’t call that department, I can only fax or write them a letter…like they’re really going to respond.
BUT, even though I didn’t have my luggage for 2 weeks, and even though it was a short trip, and even though I didn’t get to do as much traveling and touring as I would have liked, I had a great time, and I’m so glad I went. I just hope that it won’t take me 16 more years to get back.
”Good morning, y’all, and thanks for flying with us this morning. Listen up, OK? Cuz I got some important information to tell ya, and if you don’t pass the short quiz I’m gonna pass out afterwards, I’m gonna have ta go through it all again, and as sexy as my voice is, I know y’all don’t want that.”
With that, the thin, middle-aged woman with long, permed hair the color of auburn that can only come from a box, commences into the canned speech that anyone who has flown more than once in their life can say by heart. She ends her safety speech with the requisite reminder that it is illegal to smoke or tamper with the smoke detectors. ”Of course, if you really do need to smoke, just push your call button, and I’ll be happy to open the door and let ya smoke out on the wing. It’s a bit breezy out there, so hold onto your hat.” She laughs at her own joke even though it’s not funny; I cringe and sink my nails into my armrest; meanwhile, the little old lady covered in liver spots across the aisle from me laughs along with our flight attendant, as do many more people than I would expect.
I’m sitting at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on my way back from a business trip to Houston. Because I work for the government, I am bound by the travel rules and must fly on the designated contract carrier. I don’t get to travel too often, but frequently enough so that I have had an opportunity to sample the various airlines that fly the friendly skies. This particular trip, it may surprise you, is not on the airline you probably expect it to be given the witticism of the flight attendant who has tried her hardest to hide the fact that she is pushing 50 and lays claim to a beautiful double-wide somewhere in a tornado-prone area of the American south. Yet, it is clear that the flying paradigm is once again changing, and I can feel that shift as it happens.
Although many people say that air travel as we know it forever changed on September 11, 2001, the simple truth of the matter is that like all things, air travel is not immune to change and like any good business, it should adapt to suit the needs of its customers and to evolve as new technology and public interest dictates. Think about it. There once was a time when the stratosphere was the unique realm of the rich, powerful, and adventurous. Not too long after, it became affordable and accessible to the masses. At that time, delicious food was served on fine china with metal forks and knives. Drinks were consumed from crystal goblets. Not too long after, we were given barely edible, microwaved food in disposable containers. (Midwest Express brought back some of the romanticism of an earlier era by reintroducing real plates and glasses.) In the 1980s, the great and mighty, His Royal Highness, Savior of the American Way and Protector of All, President Ronald Wilson Reagan, deregulated the airlines and fired countless air traffic controllers. (How few of us recognized the irony when G.W. insisted that Washington National Airport be renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport?) Then came Osama Bin Laden and his minion of morons. I remember a time when I could actually meet my loved ones at the gate as they disembarked. I remember a time when I could pack a carry-on and nothing else, secure in the knowledge that I would be able to shampoo my hair with shampoo from the bottle I brought with me. I remember a time when I didn’t wonder how people could take a plane down with bottled breast milk. I also fondly remember—in yet another ironic twist—the halcyon days when I didn’t have to pay $5 to eat on a plane. Oh, to have one of those disgusting, microwaved meals they used to give us.
The fact that we are no longer served meals aboard a flight has nothing to do with national security or terrorism. 9/11 caused a chain reaction that was, in reality, already waiting to happen. The dominos had been lined up and ready for someone to flick the first one since deregulation. With everyone afraid to travel in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, the airlines were forced into bankruptcy, and they did whatever they could to cut corners in an effort to stay aloft. The first to go, of course, was the succulent cuisine. Years later, after the companies settled down and things returned to a tenuous normality, CEOs and their bean counters realized that the only thing removing dinner did was boost revenue; while we poor folk in steerage may have griped, we continued to buy our tickets, and even paid ridiculous amounts for Pringles and granola bars. In all fairness to the airlines, it was smart business not to bring food back if it didn’t cause a loss in ticket sales. (I offer a suggestion to the major airlines: At the time of ticket sale, offer us a meal for $5, $10, even $20. If I’m already purchasing a $400 ticket, I’ll be much more content to add on another $20 at that moment than later, while I’m in the air.)
And that’s what it’s really all about: good business. As demands for certain services wax and wane, industry should adapt, as long as it doesn’t adversely affect the bottom line. Indeed, if it was to increase overall revenue, and a competitor appears to be profiting from it, why not absorb that business model into yours?
And that’s why we see this love-fest occurring on planes. It was bad enough when Southwest Airlines started taking liberties and talking to us like we were old chums, but now it seems that everyone is doing it. I have nothing personally against Southwest as a company. In fact, I’ve flown with them multiple times, and each time, I arrived safely at my destination. Only a few times were we ever significantly delayed. Yet, every time the flight attendants would get on the mic, I’d want to gouge out my eyes or poke a hole in my eardrum. (I sat next to a SWA pilot once, and he said that the first thing most SWA pilots did when they got into the cockpit was turn off the switch that allowed them to hear what was broadcast in the cabin. I felt vindicated.) I make no pretense that I’m not an elitist, nor do I pretend that I like people, so it probably comes as no surprise that I find this chit-chattiness particularly abhorrent.
I pay a lot of money to fly, and the last thing I want to be reminded of is that I’m trapped in a tin can at 36,000 feet. There’s no other way to describe it, but when that flight attendant gets on the mic and starts in with her “y’all”s or his “hey gang”s, they stress the fact that I am in fact little more than a captive audience. I am paying for their service, not their friendship. I don’t want to be chummy with them. I don’t want to be friends with them. In fact, I almost always bring a book and at least one crossword. Sadly, for the first ½ hour that I’m in the plane, I can’t read or work on the puzzle because the flight attendants are so busy gapping away on the mic (of course, they would say it’s “entertainment.” I say it’s odious drivel). I do bring my iPod, so I can plug in and disappear into a good sonata, quartet, or concerto, but again, I am deprived of this escape route because I am not allowed to listen to my iPod until we have reached a certain level (and the flight attendant is more than happy to, once again, get on the damn mic to let me know that approved electronic devices may now be used).
People don’t like formality these days. We live in a time when people wear ripped jeans and tee shirts to school, church, and even court. We no longer wear morning coats to breakfast or dinner jackets to supper. Within a generation or two, the esoteric knowledge of the ancient ways of crafting the For-in-Hand and Half- and Full-Windsor will be lost forever. Even in restaurants, we see this trend from formal to fraternal. How often do you look up from the menu only to see your server sitting across the table from you? In school, more and more students call their professors by their first names instead of Dr. So-and-So. Even the grocery store clerk wants to know how your day was, and too many of us will tell them, like they really care. Another clear indicator of this trend toward informality is on our buses, trains, and metros. How many of us have sat next to someone who is on their cell phone talking about topics that should be discussed only in the privacy of their homes: I’m talking about the lady who is discussing her Pap smear or the old man informing the world of the results of his colonoscopy.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be waited on, to be pampered, to be serviced. There are precious few places left in this country where we can truly be treated like we are someone important, and we, the customers, should be demanding a return to this sort of treatment. If I’m going to pay a ton of money for an airline ticket, a hotel room, or an expensive dinner, I feel that being served and treated like I’m a valued customer is part of the price of the ticket, room, or plate. I’m not asking that they should grovel and wash my feet, but a few more “yes, sir”s and “thank you, ma’am”s would increase the tip far more than “hey buddy”s and “fer sher”s could ever hope to.
I guess that I really shouldn't be surprised, then, that the men and women working in the airline industry see the trend toward informality and instead of walking upon the well trod path, they are blazing the trail, hacking away at pretence and stuffiness with their machetes of howdys and hiyas. It definitely seems to be working for Southwest Airlines, so why shouldn’t other airlines be incorporating this new, hip, fun business model into theirs?
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.
I bought a ½ pint carton of milk at work this morning to put into my cereal. As I rode the elevator up to the 9th floor, I read the labels on the carton. Here’s what one of the panels read:
INGREDIENTS: FAT FREE MILK, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D3.
Uh, yea. But it seems to me that it should at the very least say “Contains: Cow’s milk.” How do I know that I’m not drinking dog’s milk, or dingo’s milk, or even worse, pig’s milk? If they are going to be kind enough to tell me that there is milk in my milk (sorry for sounding like W.C. Fields here—“Who put pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?”), I would appreciate knowing what kind of milk is in my milk.
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.
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.