Yea, so, it's been yonks since I've written anything, so I decided to start writing and see where it takes me. I'm not really sure what I'm planning to write in this post, but we'll see what comes out.
I've been worrying lately that I've completely lost what little shred of talent I have for writing and being creative. I've been saying it for years now that NASA has been making me dumber, and now I'm completely convinced. I've not written anything since last year, and I've had nothing to write about. I've tried; oh, believe me, I've tried. I sit on the Metro and look at the goings-on around me and think, "What is going on here that I can write about?" I thought about blogging about the wedding and preparation and all that, but nothing (not to mention that the Sabra didn't want me to write anything personal on the blog). I just didn't have the ambition.
Now that we're separated, you'd think I've got loads of time to write...but again, what do I write about? I could blog about me trying to find a job in Beantown, but who wants to read that crap?
I finally got around to buying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so I decided to start back at the beginning and read straight through. I thought that that would be cool to write about...my feelings after reading each of the books--not my opinions of what's going on or anything like that, but the beauty of reading entertaining books, of the feelings, emotions, and memories that J.K. Rowling is able to evoke from me. But, nope, nada, nothing doing. Oh, that's not to say that I'm not experiencing emotions and feelings and memories from reading the books again, but I'm not writing about them...can't be bothered.
I'm going out tonight...maybe something exciting will occur to me to write about them.
Well, wish me luck!
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.
So the weekend went pretty well.
I took Friday off, and lounged around, cleaned a little, packed a little, and finally made my way to West Falls Church-VT/UVA Metro station. I hung out there doing a crossword for about ½ hour to 45 minutes before the Sabra arrived (she couldn’t get time off work). We boarded the Washington Flyer and headed to Dulles International Airport. All went smoothly until we got to security. Now, I have flown a lot in my life, and I’ve very rarely been searched; in fact, I am pretty sure that I do not fit any of the current profiles. On the other hand, there is the Sabra. True, her accent is Hebrew and not Arabic, but do you really think the Haitian, Dominican, or Ecuadorian TSA agent really knows the difference betwixt Hebrew and Arabic accents? I don’t think so. So, as you have guessed, the foreigner with the Middle Eastern accent was able to walk right on through without any problems.
So, yes, I—who is, I might add, 100% pure-blooded American—get stopped at security, and they require a baggage check of me. I expect that they are going to pull out my backpack, which was loaded with all kinds of electronic equipment, any of which could have been pieces of some unconventional weapon. But no, my computer, camera, lenses, cables, iPod, headphones, cell phone, blackberry, electric razor, adapters are all OK. What are these brainiacs who are protecting American skyways looking for in my bags? What weapon of mass destruction did they want to confiscate? Would you believe it wasn’t anything electronic, nor sharp, not even anything ticking. No, it was in fact my nearly empty tube of Crest. Admittedly, it WAS the new Pro-Health kind. They also took my nearly empty tube of shaving gel.
So, as I’m retying my shoes, and putting my tighty-whities and socks back into the suitcase, I was free to go and ponder this recent event. The first thing I thought was that if I actually knew how to take a plane down with nothing but an almost empty tube of toothpaste and an equally almost empty tube of shaving gel, I’d probably be a very wealthy man. Instead, I was in reality nothing more than an embarrassed average joe. Oh well.
We finally made it through security, found our gate, and just had time to get an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. Our plane was a little delayed and moved to a different gate (one down) because of some problem with a flight completely unrelated to ours. Once we get onboard, we sit down, and meet a very nice guy who was on the last leg of his journey. He had been flying for 20something hours from Singapore. One row ahead and on the starboard side (we were on the port side) was a screaming baby. I was ready to kill, but the Sabra kept calming me down. We finally roll out to the tarmac and get in line to take off when we learn that there are major delay due to electrical storms somewhere over New York. We ended up sitting on the tarmac for over 2 hours. The pilot came on and said that they were considering returning to the gate, but then we would lose our place in line. Before he could make up his mind, we got the all clear, and off we went into the wild blue yonder. It really wasn’t so bad, we ended up getting in around 7 instead of 5.
The Little Sabra’s brother and sister-in-law met us at the airport, and off we went to dinner. As we drove from the airport to the restaurant, I got the rather entertaining tour of the town. Beside the fact that it was dark and I couldn’t see anything, I’m not so sure they really had their bearings, the Bro would say look to your left, and the sis-in-law would say no, that’s further down, and the Sabra would say “are you sure we didn’t just pass it?” Like I said, very entertaining. If they weren’t pointing out landmarks, we were all chatting and getting to know each other. They seem like fun people, and we spent most of the ride laughing.
Dinner was at a frou-frou Indian restaurant. I had, of course, a biryani. It was quite delish. Believe it or not, I couldn’t finish it. The Sabra also had biryani, but her’s was vegetarian (of course). We got doggie bags. After dinner, we walked over to an ice cream shop, but only the sis-in-law got anything. So, back into the car. I was offered a quick driving tour of town, and as I’ve never been to Beantown, I took them up on their offer. We drove past Cheers, and Boston Common, and over the Charles River, and other places until we finally got to the hotel. It was way late, and we went to bed.
Saturday morning, we got up, ate breakfast, and walked. We walked all over town. From Beacon Hill to Little Italy, and then over to some water and into a produce market (a la Machnay Yehuda in Jerusalem), and back to the hotel. I honestly have no idea where all we went, but there are pics on the Photoblog. We were out and about all day. It was so nice to be a tourist. We met some interesting people, some not so friendly people, and some just odd people.
We eventually made it back to the hotel, where we refreshed and met her kinfolk again for dinner. We went again to a frou-frou place, this time for sushi. I think we all really liked the restaurant: it had great atmosphere, the service was good, and the food came out in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, as is the case in the more expensive restaurants, it was rather over priced, and the portions were very small. Nevertheless, as I said, it was quite tasty, and I think we all enjoyed what we ordered. From the restaurant, we drove back to her sibling's apartment, left the car, and headed into their neighborhood, and proceed to drink. We were all pretty toasted, and the Sabra and I got a cab and headed back to the hotel to go to sleep.
Sunday arrived, and we set out for the retirement party that originally brought us to Boston in the first place. We took the T from the hotel to her brother’s apartment, and that was cool because I love subways. There was construction on the track, so we had to get off and get on a bus and get back on the trolley. We got back on the trolley at the wrong station and the guy tried to make us pay again. We didn’t. We finally got to her brother’s and we all set out to find the place where the event was. That, too, was a drama as he and his wife had no idea where we were headed, and we got sort of lost (sort of because they still basically knew where we were going).
So, once we got to the event, it was quite nice. Even though I didn’t know anyone, it was still pretty emotional. It wasn’t hard to see that at least 200 people showed up to wish this woman good-bye. She apparently built the organization and ran it for 15 years. The program was pretty good. Most of the people who spoke were entertaining. Her replacement spoke, and it truly boggled my mind that someone so bad at public speaking could be the one selected to take the reins. I don’t mean to imply that he was inarticulate; quite the contrary in fact, he seemed sharp as a tack, but he was clearly not comfortable speaking in front of that many people. They showed a video that someone had put together. I think if I knew even 1 person in the video it would have been good, but since I didn’t, I watched with a more technical eye, and could see that it was entirely too long. I understand that these projects are made with emotions running high, but even the folks who know everyone in the video were getting bored because it was running a tad too long.
We walked around a bit talking to some fascinating people. There was one professor who was married to another woman and their daughter seems to have some personal problems (imagine, with 2 professor, hippy, wacky moms, I’d be shocked if she DIDN’T have problems). There was another woman who was excited to tell us that she had taken her wife’s name. Then there was the woman who lives down the street from the Sabra, tried for the Sabra’s job, and runs a business not unlike one of my ideas. These were truly interesting characters, and I think someone like LtL could have found a mother lode of material for his writing.
We finally said our last good-byes and headed to the airport. We were running late, and time was of the essence. So, naturally, we hit mad, mad traffic. The long and short of it is that we missed our flight home, and after much debate, we decided that it was worth paying an extra $100 each and getting home Sunday night instead of getting a hotel and being back at that airport by 5 am on Monday.
We flew into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport around 7 that night and were back at my apartment before 9. Even with the strip search and delay and screaming kid and traffic, I had a great time meeting her brother and sister-in-law and seeing Boston and riding on the T and taking pictures. All in all, it was a fun weekend, and I do hope that we do more of these weekend excursions.
My Brother-in-Law, sister, and I went to the Rhino Bar in Gerogetown last weekend to see the Eagles kick the crap out of the Saints. Sadly, the Saints trounced the Eagles. There were many a dejected Eagles fans angrily and drunkenly making their way back to their beds after the game ended and the bar closed.
Who won or lost that game, however, is not really what this post is about (although it should be noted that my kinfolk and I were rooting for the Eagles). As most of my loyal readers know, Jo Cose doesn’t really know the Stanley Cup from the Ryder Cup or "The Ashes" from Arthur Ashe. Nevertheless, I love my sister and Brother-in-Law, and I savor the opportunities to spend time with them (that, and they usually end up paying the bill). Also, football is one of those sports that I actually enjoy watching, but I just don’t get all the rules. The Bro-in-Law does (he used to play), so it’s enjoyable to watch with someone who can call the penalties before the refs, AND explain them to me at the same time. Finally, it was an opportunity for me to observe my fellow humans in their environs—one, I might add, that I would not normally go to on my own.
That is where this post is going. I have heard tell of how people behave in sports bars, but I was still fascinated. I am sure that I was completely wide-eyed and stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. First of all, everyone was wearing Eagles jerseys except the brave few wearing Saints shirts. By the time we got there, most of the Eagles fans were 3, if not 5, sheets to the wind…so the energy was pumping. We sat in the back, close to the big screen projection TV. Fortunately, my sister and I were against the wall. This was good for 2 reasons: 1) I’m small and terrified of being trampled, and 2) my sister is preggers. The Bro-in-Law sat on the outside, and it’s a good thing he is a big guy—there was a lot of hitting and body slamming…but more of that anon.
The folks next to us were hammered and loud. They did a rollcall, and each person in the bar that was wearing said jersey number would stand up, and everyone would cheer. When this ritual was complete, they (the Eagles fans) turned on the Saints fans (who were towards the front of the bar [that is, by the doors] for some reason). Middle fingers abounded and someone began to chant. Before long, the rafters were ringing with the sportsman-like incantation, “Fuck the Saints!” Once everyone settled, another chant began, mostly as a gurgle from deep within the belly of the bar and rose through so many throats and mouths: “DEFENSE! DEFENSE! DEFENSE! GOOOO EAGLES!” Even I got wrapped up in the moment and found myself banging on the table and clapping my hands.
The waitress came by time and time again: first with pitchers for the table next to us, than Irish Car Bombs for the table on the other side of us. She rushed back with our food and beer (diet coke for my preggers sister), then more pitchers, then more Irish Car Bombs. It was a constant flow of alcohol. I didn’t think people really consumed that much liquor in one sitting.
Finally, the game began and a new chant was heard, “DOWN IN FRONT!” Once the fratboys in the front settled down, the ball was snapped, and the Eagles–Saints game was underway. Before, I could even determine who had the ball, one of the fratboys in front of me jumped up and blocked my view of the TV. He looked around, as if looking for his compatriots, and settled down. Within seconds, he was up again, this time a personal foul was called on the opposing team. Apparently, this is good for us. He proceeded to give high-fives to his fellow drunken buddies. Everyone was happy. Each play ended this way: something would happen, but before I could determine what, my view of the television was blocked by the aforementioned fratboy.
Eventually, the Eagles scored their first touchdown of the game. To say the place went wild would be an understatement. The bar was packed; we were lucky that we had gotten there between games and were able to get a table. There was actually a line to get in because they had reached their fire-code limit. So, imagine being in a room the size of a small 1-screen theatre with probably 800 people (including the upstairs), all drunk, all screaming their lungs out. A small mosh pit started right in front of us, and my Brother-in-law was either dragged or willing jumped—I couldn’t tell which—into the melee of sweat, arms, fists, and hugs.
Eventually everything settled down, and all were glued to the set…would the kicker get the extra point? Of course he did, and the crowd let up a great cheer. Apparently the kick after a touchdown isn’t as worthy of mayhem as a touchdown is. That didn’t stop our fratboy cum jack-in-the-box from jumping up. He went around his table and high-fived everyone. Even the ones that weren’t paying attention: He would hold one hand in the air and tap his potential high-fiver with the other until he got their attention and then would commence the obligatory high-five.
I missed the next several plays because Mr. Jock-in-the-Box would jump up immediately. It was pretty aggravating. Is this a part of the ritual of watching sports? Is one supposed to continuously stand and sit throughout the game? What does it accomplish? If the play was good (for his team anyway), he would jump up out of his seat, high-five everyone, again heckle those who weren’t ready to be high-fived until they complied, and point to no one in particular (à la the apocryphal Babe Ruth stance) and nod his head in an affirmative. If a play was bad (again for his team), he would jump up out of his seat, alternately either throw his hands in the air in disgust, put them on his hips and pace sulking, or thrust his hand as if he were throwing something, run his hands through his hair, and sit back down. Touchdowns required special animation: he would (as you may have guessed) jump up out of his seat, bear hug his buddies, high-five others, and rub the girls (who were hot, I might add) on the head or face either before or after high-fiving them as well.
What interested me the most was the passion with which he would hug his fellow sports fanatics. I am not speaking of a sexual passion, but rather of a passion that one would expect from the players themselves who scored the touchdown, or the coach who would enter the game with trepidation that he might be looking for a new job come Monday morning. It was a passion that said, “That was me. I made this touchdown, and it has deeply affected me.” If he is the stereotypical sports fan, then I was indeed lucky to have sat next to him. I honestly felt like Jane Goodall as she observes her primates.
I think that that is the most alien part to me of watching sports. I am dispassionate about it. I can admire a good play (when I understand what happened), I can appreciate quality teamwork and good sportsmanship. But I just can’t seem to become so engrossed, so obsessed that I actually become so viscerally affected, that I believe that my world hinges upon the outcome of a particular sporting match. Sometimes, like last Sunday, I actually feel like I’m missing something. I feel left out. I wish I could care about sports like so many others do. I try, but I lose interest too fast. For instance, there is another big game this coming weekend; yet, if I miss it, it won’t be the end of the world. In fact, I will most likely miss it as I have a packed weekend, and none of my plans include watching the game. I’ve been told by a co-worked that I’m actually better off for not being so involved with sports, but I don’t know…I sometimes feel like the only one in the world who doesn’t care who plays in, or wins, the Super Bowl.
I have been riding the Red Line on the Metro for nearly 3 years now, so I know exactly which car to be in and which door to stand by to expedite my transfers or arrival home. Unfortunately, my timing isn’t always such that I can easily get to the right door and still make the train. Sometimes, I will just say the hell with it and stay where I am, other times, I will switch cars at each station until I get to the desired car. I did the latter this morning.
The train pulled into Fort Totten, and I got out and headed to the next car. Some dude comes barreling up the escalator and runs at full speed toward the door. He nearly knocked some young woman over as he pushed her out of the way to get on the train before her. Clearly, this guy was way more important than anyone else on the train. Then he slammed into me from behind. No apologies or anything. He tried to squirm his way around me, but there were people in the aisles, so he couldn’t. The person in front of me was going pretty slowly, so I couldn’t go anywhere. This was not good enough for the guy behind me. He is still walking at high speed and pushes into me. Naturally, I turn around and, while I don’t say anything, I give him the ole What-the-Fuck-Asshole glare. At this point, just for the record, the doors close. There was absolutely no need to muscle his way on to the train, and he’s already ON the damn train, what’s his friggin’ hurry at this point.
Now, I need to pause a moment to give a little background. Jo Cose was cursed with 2 things that are being wasted at the present moment: intelligence and a burning desire to learn. As such, I consider myself to be a veracious reader (albeit a slow one), and, like many who commute by mass transit, find the 30 minutes (yea, I know, I’m lucky that way) in the morning and evening ideal reading time. I am currently reading Made In America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, by Bill Bryson. That, however, is for another post.
So, to recap, I am walking slowly down the aisle because the person in front of me is walking slowly down the aisle. Although I had my book in hand, I had stopped reading it while I switched cars. I wouldn’t look down at the book again until I had reached the far end of the current train car. Meanwhile, I have a very rude, very impatient man behind me who just walked hard into me. As you will no doubt recall, I have just turned back around from giving the man the What-the-Fuck-Asshole glare. This guy, however, is much better at this than I, and gave a retort worthy of the best of them. I’m sure that he felt he got the last word, and I just didn’t care enough to argue; it really wasn’t worth it. He says very loudly, “You’d move faster if you weren't reading a book. This ain’t no dame lieberry!”
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.
Wow, what an interesting experience I had this evening. I went to a club called Wet in DC’s Ghe-Toe. It is down in Anacostia. But it’s actually about two blocks from the Navy Yard station, which I believe is not too far from Eastern Market, so I’m thinking that it may not be as bad as it once was…not that I would be frequenting such an establishment.
Well, to bring the less informed up to speed, Wet is a gay nudie bar…boys dancing on the bar with nothing but their tube socks (to collect tips—sort of the gay male stripper’s garter). Actually, some had more than that on: a flak jacket, a policeman’s utility belt (complete with cuffs and billy club), the top half of a marine’s uniform. At the far end of the bar is a large shower stall with several jets of water spewing in every direction—all the better to ensure that every inch of the body will become, well, Wet. Meanwhile, as the live show is going on upon the three-quarter thrust stage that is the bar, and drama is occurring behind the proscenium of the shower stall, there is another stage along the length-wise wall, which supports at one point in the evening the Cowboy (sans chaps), the Marine, some random dancer and the Child (we shall come back to the Child anon). Across the room, by the door is a lone solo stage, with its own spotlight and stripper pole. To complete the mise-en-scène, arranged in banks of 4 in opposite corners of the joint are televisions showing hardcore gay porn.
I did not go alone. Shining Starr9, Lady Godiva, and the Lady’s gay roommate all went. The girls had never been to a gay nudie bar, and the roomie, I guess, just wanted to see some naked boys.
So, while we were sitting at the table, watching the myriad entertainment, I spy the Child lounging on the solo stage without his shirt on. (Actually, we met him when we first walked in; he almost knocked over the guy who was checking our IDs with a big bear hug. Then he attacked Shining Starr9’s jacket that he thought was so wonderful and amazing (it was a nice jacket, I mean no disrespect on the apparel, but it was a GIRL’s jacket). Anyway, so we watch him run (literally) around the club chatting with the patrons (us included). There is no doubt in any of our minds that he is on something and higher than a kite. So, he’s lounging on the stage and then he gets up and starts, um, well, I wouldn’t call it dancing, it was more a fevered, coked-up frenzy. I turn away and when I look again, he is naked and dancing his little, overworked, 19-year-old heart out. He looks like he should be hanging 10 on a surfboard in Hawaii, not stripping in a dive in DC. The very first thing that strikes me about this boy is that he is hired not for his dancing abilities, but for his pre-pubescent look (and sure enough, it is the older, lonelier men who pay him the most attention--and money). He still has baby fat around his tummy and no hair on his body, save pubes. Unlike his older co-workers, I don’t think he is shaving yet…chin or chest. Few are paying attention to him, but he doesn’t seem to care: he’s a maniac, maniac on the floor and he's dancing like he's never danced before. He has three moves: 1) gyrate his hips to get his penis and testicles (and he had some long, dangling, pendulous balls) flopping up to hit his stomach over and over ad nauseam; 2) wiggle himself around, then shimmy his way to a squat, grab the back of his head with his left hand and shimmy on up again; and 3) really a variation of 1, he would put both hands behind his head and gyrate his hips to get his penis and testicles (and he had some long, dangling, pendulous balls) flopping up to hit his stomach over and over ad nauseam. God bless him for being so damn impassioned with what he was doing.
So, it was “Wet Underwear Night” this evening, and before your sick little minds go too far, I shall reassure you that Jo Cose remained dry and his tighty-whities stayed well hidden. The roomie, on the other hand, did enter the contest. At the risk of offending Lady Godiva, I will leave the description of the roomie at this: he was not the most attractive man in the joint. Ne’ertheless, he had some big balls (figuratively, I mean). He and 4 other strapping lads stripped to their unmentionables and pranced and danced around the bar for about 10 minutes (9 too long if you ask me). Then the second part of the contest was individual shower scenes, each lasting 5 minutes (again, 4 too long). In the end, all 5 contestants got naked in the showers. I found it interesting that I was more disturbed to see the roomie naked than the rest of the boys; not because he was less attractive or anything like that, but I guess because I had only met him several hours earlier and I didn’t know the rest of the amateurs at all, I didn’t have to share a ride home with them. Anyway, so 15 minutes of humiliation for the chance to win $250. I don’t think it was really worth it. Sadly, the roommate did not win. But I give him big kudos for entering.
Anyway, it’s almost 4 am and I need to go to sleep…peace out y’all.
Errrgggg. I wasn’t out late Saturday night, and I must have been in bed around midnight, but 7 am arrived too darn early. But, isn’t it truly amazing how you can drag your ass out of bed and be raring to go on relatively little sleep when it’s something you want to be doing? Why don’t I have that kind of energy to get up and go to the best damn space agency in the world?
Anyway, before I digress too much.
Yes, I had places to be. The True Renaissance Woman got me some tickets to the Maryland Renaissance Festival (ahh, I can see the little light bulbs going off—the nickname actually makes sense now), and I was supposed to meet Shining Starr9 at 10 am by the Will Call booth. We met up with Uncle Skeleton, the Burnt Wrestler, Lady Godiva, and the Lady’s brother. I was at the Renaissance Festival from the beginning to almost the end. I’ve never actually stayed that long before, and I actually had a great time. I love watching the freaks who attend and dress up and take it way more seriously than the people who work there.
There was this one chick with short hair and elf’s ears (you know, the pointy kind like Mr. Spock). She was wearing some rustic brown outfit that had that torn look at the bottom. And when I say bottom, I mean well above the knee. The top was equally as rustic and was as low cut in the front as the skirt was high. Needless to say, she was way, way hot, and I shamelessly stared at her. Alas, as I stared, I saw her rubbing her boyfriend’s arm and holding his hand. Too bad for me :(
We went to see a play on the fate of Catherine, a show called Fight Club, and the Chess match. The True Renaissance Woman was mad that we didn’t see anything that she was in, and rightfully so. I’m sorry for that. I wanted to see her perform, but for some reason (it could have been Mead induced) we never made it. We spent a goodly amount of time at the pubs, and ended the day at the White Hart Tavern for Pub Sing.
I left shortly before the Pub Sing was over, but Lady Godiva and her brother were leaving so I walked out with them.
On to Saturday night. I am not sure what time I awoke on Saturday, nor does it really matter. I did get up eventually. I ate, and cleaned and vacuumed my bedroom. And that was a major accomplishment!
Around 7 pm, I took a shower and got dressed and was out the door for the evening’s festivities. I met Shining Starr9 and Evl Redhead in College Park. We went to the Prince Cafe of College Park and had a pomegranate-flavored shisha. It was pretty neat, albeit unhealthy. The service sucked big time, but that seems to be part of the hookah bar experience. Also, as Shining Starr9 demanded that we sit in the only remaining booth, we had to sit right next to the speaker of the television, and listening to Arabic pop music ten decibels louder than it should be isn’t all that pleasant of an experience. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all, and there were lots of attractive people to ogle, which can only heighten an experience, not detract from it (although I will prove this to be wrong shortly).
As the nargila cooled and the joint became increasingly packed with undergraduates, I could feel that twang of sadness that comes to me when I’m surrounded by such people as the denizens of this establishment. So, in an effort to nip it in the bud, I suggested that we move on. Evl Redhead suggested that we retire to her dorm as her roommates were gone for the weekend, but I figured that if I wasn’t keen on hanging out in a bar full of undergrads, I don’t think being in the dorm would be any better. Instead, we hung out in the parking lot for a while and chatted about nothing. Who knew that the most interesting and happening spot on a Saturday night in College Park would be at the parking lot of the strip mall?
Where to begin? Well, I could describe the young gentleman who amazed and impressed me with his potency and virility by peeling out of his parking space in his beat-up, crappy minivan. If that isn’t interesting, there was the scary Goth chick (I apologize to LtL who thinks that I’m a wimp because I think that the whole Goth thing is a little creapy) who had a hairdo reminiscent of Kid n’ Play. But she had it held up with a bandana wrapped around her ample locks. Throughout our time in the parking lot, there was a constant flow of frat boys entering the liquor store only to exit with a keg. There must have been one hell of a party on Frat Row.
But, I think that the award for best skit to be played out on the asphalt stage we were watching has to go to the incompetent little coed behind the wheel of a big ole SUV who couldn’t park the damn thing. She had to be guided into the space by two random guys who I think were only helping for fear of their car getting hit. Then she couldn’t get out of the space (bear in mind she never got out of the SUV). She would put the thing in reverse, look all around: behind her, in her mirrors, out her windows. Next she would turn the wheel to the stop and gun the engine only to slam the brakes on, throw it into drive and move an inch forward, returning roughly to her starting position. We had no idea what her problem was or what she was trying to accomplish. Finally, the car next to her pulled out and she moved ahead and in reverse several more times and finally was able to pull straight out between the two cars in front of her, and she finally drove away to a standing ovation from her adoring audience.
After that performance, I decided that there was nothing at all that could top it, and as I needed to be up early the next day, I decided to call it a night and went home to bed.