As most of you are aware, I have a weak spot for Ann Curry of “TODAY” fame. Unfortunately, the bedrock of my feelings for this lovely lady felt a rather large tremor this morning when she was reporting the morning news.
I can forgive most Americans for mispronouncing the names of foreigners, especially when they are spelled in an alphabet other than the one used in the US and other English speaking countries. However, I am also aware that in the media world, they always include a phonetic transliteration of hard-to-pronounce names. Likewise, I can excuse newscasters stumbling over names that are new to the news world (i.e., the daily barrage of Arabic names that no one can say or keep track of).
I do, however, draw the line with a politician who has been in the news since 1973. Granted he was a relative unknown then, but he has become increasingly more powerful and his name has become increasingly familiar as he has gone from an unknown MK in Israel’s Knesset to the Mayor of Jerusalem eventually to the Prime Minister of the State of Israel.
As such, I find it deplorable and rather offensive that my nymph of news, my madam of media, could mispronounce “Ehud Olmert” and call the poor man, “Ehud Olmer.” No, Ms. Curry, Hebrew is not an effeminate language like French. There are no soft Ts that need to be dropped. Please don’t offend the Israelis and make their language sound like that of the French. Seriously, no one really wants to be compared to the French, least of all the Jews.
Am I the only one who has “Dirty Laundry” in their head now?
I have a TV in my cube at work, and it stays on CNN pretty much all the time. They are talking about the dude that killed a deputy, who the police just killed. The reporter stated emphatically, "They [the Florida police] shot him dead several times."
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.
Did you ever have one of those days? Today was one of those days for me.
I got sucked into Stargate SG 1 last night and was up until 11 pm. ¼ to 6 in the morning rolls around pretty damn quickly, especially when you were tossing and turning all night. I was so tired last night, I couldn’t wait to get into bed, but as soon as I did, I felt like I was ready to run a marathon. I kept waking up, too, because my ear was hurting really badly. All this is to demonstrate that I was very tired this morning, and got up a few minutes later than usual.
I decided that I wasn’t going to go to work, and I was ready to call in sick when I remembered I had an important meeting, so I dragged my ass out of bed and got in the shower. I took a longer than usual shower, and ate breakfast at a leisurely pace. I usually leave the house between 7 and 7:15; Today, I was having trouble deciding what to wear (I have on my new pants that are a size and a ½ smaller than my other pants, a new shirt, and a new tie). I couldn’t get my tie to tie right (in fact, it’s still a little long). Finally, I somehow managed to get out of the apartment. It was close to 7:30.
I wanted to get out early because there was apparently a broken rail somewhere around the Dupont Metro Station. Because I was running so late, I caught the local news break and learned that the trains were once again running smoothly. I got on and my train crept along from Takoma to Gallery Place/Chinatown. When we finally got to Gallery Place/Chinatown, the platform was a mob scene. There was nowhere to stand, let alone try to walk. I was in the front car and the stairs to the lower platform were all the way at the opposite end of the platform. The trip from one end of the platform to the other should take maybe a minute. I think it took me about 6 or 7 minutes. I finally got to the lower platform and got on the next train.
I was standing there minding my own business reading my book and listening to my iPod when all of the sudden I was attacked by sunlight. Now, I shouldn’t ever see sunlight from Union Station to L’Enfant Plaza, but there it was in all its radiating glory. I completely missed my stop. So, I got off at Pentagon and hopped the train going the other way. Well, I forgot that Pentagon is a transfer station, so I got on the Blue Line instead of the Yellow Line. So, next thing I know, I’m not pulling into L’Enfant Plaza, but rather into Arlington Cemetery. I had to double back.
Finally, I made it into work about an hour late. Oh, well, now I know how Charlie felt.
I hate mornings. I dread the sound of the alarm clock. Sleep usually refuses to release me from her grip, and I find myself using every ounce of strength that I have to swing my legs over the side of the bed and face a new day. It’s not that I dread the coming day—how could that be when I work at such a wonderful place as NASA? Once I’m up, I’m fine…it’s just that first movement of throwing back the blankets and pealing myself from the safety and security of my warm bed. Once I’m out of the shower, I’m more functional. Sadly, however, this means that all of the harsh realities of the day begin to set in even before I can get my Ann Curry fix. Once I’m on the Metro there is no turning back from the inevitable, and I am grateful that I at least have the 25-minute commute to prepare myself for what I will have to deal with at NASA.
Nevertheless, each morning, between the moment that I step off the escalator at L'Enfant Plaza until I cross 4th St. SW, I am no longer in DC. I am somehow transported, for that span of about a minute and a half, to the Old Country. I walk that block and a half in a trance, seeing not the drab buildings of American Democracy or the bleary-eyed civil servants on their way to and fro. What I see instead is a landscape of small, ancient buildings lining narrow, cobblestone lanes with double-decker red buses. A smorgasbord of nationalities and ethnicities pass me on the street, speaking myriad languages, yet all feeling at home in this cosmopolitan scene.
But most of all it’s the smells. As I stroll down the street on my way to NASA, my nose is accosted by so many assorted smells that all merge to paint a clear picture on my mind’s canvas. Call it nostalgia. Call it memory. Call it what you will. For that brief time, I can smell the aroma of sweet pastry, cooking bacon, scrambling eggs, and grease. As I round the corner, these odors mix with the distinctive smell of diesel and carbon monoxide belching from the busses and delivery trucks. As Baby's-breath to this bouquet of scents is the smell of fresh baked bread emanating from the Subway on the corner and the bagels and coffee from the shop next door.
For that brief moment, I get to live my fantasy of being away, living in another land, absorbing the culture through all of my senses.
Today I felt more like a drone than ever before.
Every morning as I traverse the platform at L’Enfant Plaza heading for the exit, there is always a mad rush around me: some heading to the train behind me and some to the trains below. I stay close to the right hand side and try desperately not to get run over or make eye contact.
In my usual fashion, I walked across the platform to the turnstile where I touched my electronic card to the reader. Once I crossed through the gate, I rounded the corner and queued up with the others at the escalator. This is unusual as there isn’t usually a line to get out of the station. I discovered that 1 of the escalators was turned off and the other was going down. That left only 1 for our ascension.
Ascension, that is a curious word, is it not? The word brings to mind Jesus and Ascension Day. For those not of the Christian persuasion, after Jesus died on the cross, he ascended to Heaven to take his rightful place next to God. For those more interested in science fiction, in Stargate SG-1 to ascend is to transcend death and become pure energy, living with the Ancients and muddling in other people’s affairs. In general, the connotation of the word ascension, like evolution, is that one is going from someplace lower and pedestrian to something higher and enlightened.
So when I think of how the line moved one step at a time it is hard to think of ascension; yet, that is technically what it was. I stood in line, took my step in sync with everyone else, then paused with everyone else, then took a step. I realized that the rhythm of the drones was allied with the movement of the escalator. As a new corrugated metal tread appeared from the depths of concrete that makes the tunnel another would step onto the moving, metal floor that, like an automated machine in a factory would take them up, up, up. As this person rose, the endless stair would create a new tread for the next person to walk upon and the line would step forward in unison.
When it finally came my turn to step onto this machine that turns out people by the thousands, it occurred to me that I have become another working stiff—going to work, coming home, eating, going to bed, only to get up and do it all again tomorrow. I turned to look at the disappearing pit from which I was ascending, and all I could see were even more people taking one step at a time as another person walked onto the ascending conveyor belt on their way to work.
I called the doctor’s office this morning and asked to speak with the doctor, but the secretary said that she would relay the message when he was available. She called back about 2 hours later (a reasonable time) and said that the doctor wasn’t too concerned, but he was going to give me a prescription for an antibiotic. I said that was fine, but I had a few other questions for the doctor. The secretary asked me why I didn’t tell her all of them the first time. I said, “Well I was expecting the doctor to call me, and I was going to discuss it with him.” She explained to me that the doctor usually tells her, and she relays it back to the patient. I told her that I would feel more comfortable if I could speak with the doctor. I hate to sound pushy, or that it’s all about me, but, well, it is all about me and my face. I still gave her my other questions so the doctor would be prepared, but I told her again that I would feel more comfortable speaking directly with the doctor. She said that he wouldn’t be able to call me back until late in the afternoon, and I said that was fine.
So, it’s now late in the afternoon. My nose is itching and stingy, and I’m still waiting patiently for the doctor to call me back. I feel like a worrywart and a pansy, but I really am petrified of getting a scar that is even more disgusting than the mole ever was. But, I am trying to be calm and withhold panic until the doctor removes the stitches Wednesday and has a good look at my nose under his lights. I’m sure my dad is right and that it will all be fine, but again I say it’s my face and I have every right to be concerned.
I woke up on Saturday, and after (carefully) showering, I removed the old Band-Aids, cleaned the wounds with my hydrogen peroxide, and then got a good look at the new me. It’s actually kind of hard to see anything different, since there are sutures where the moles used to be, so there is still something holding their former place. I did notice a big concave area on my nose where the mole used to be. My dad says that it will fill itself in, but I told my older sister I may need to use putty to fill it in for her wedding pictures.
I laid pretty low Saturday. I went to McDonald's for lunch and then, since I was in the car anyway, headed up to Arundel Mills Mall. I was 2 hours too early for a movie, but bought a ticket for National Treasure anyway and walked around the mall. The movie was exactly what I expected, so it was quite enjoyable. The only problem was the guy sitting next to me with his grandson. I was terrified that the kid would be annoying, but it turned out the kid was riveted to the screen; it was the old man who fell asleep during the previews and didn’t wake up until about ½ way through the show. He was snoring!
On my way home, I called Windstorm, with whom I had already made plans to go out to eat. She said that she was too tired and wanted to sleep, so I called the ‘rents to see what they were doing for dinner, but my mom said that they had already finished eating left-overs. Then I called Windstorm back to talk her into going to dinner with me as we had planned, but she was on the other line making plans with other friends (typical). So, while I would normally be mad at her for standing me up when we had already made plans, I was OK with it for 2 reasons: 1) we went out to dinner a few weeks ago when she was here, and she hasn’t seen those people in a very long time, and 2) I really wasn’t in the mood to be social anyway. But I still gave her a hard time, so I’m sure she thinks that I’m mad at her about it, and I’m really not; I think that we both made the right choice and it’s all good. Actually, she didn’t get home until after 2 am, so I know I made the right choice. I got some Chinese carry-out (Beef Chow Foon), went home, and watched British comedy on Maryland Public Television until I fell asleep.
Sorry I didn’t write over the weekend, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it. I’m really still not, but it’s 9:30 in the morning, and I have finished all of my work for the day (well, I say that, but I think it’s probably more accurate to say that I don’t have anything on my desk at the moment, and I am just waiting for the next task to be delivered), so I need to do something to alleviate the boredom.
Anyway, about Friday:
I got up pretty early (around 7:30—my regular weekend wake-up time), and took a shower, shaved and generally stared in the mirror a whole lot looking at my soon-to-be-different nose. I kept touching my moles, willing my fingers and brain to remember the feel, contour, texture of my moles and face. I watched TV and ate a very light breakfast, all the while my fingers continued to migrate toward my nose and cheek. I cleaned and vacuumed the apartment and washed the dishes. I didn’t want to come home to a dirty home (although, I somehow forgot or ran out of time to do the bathroom—I can’t imagine how that happened). Around 11ish, my parents called and said that they were on their way (my mom insisted that she and my dad be there, which was fine by me). They arrived shortly before noon, and we sat and talked for a bit; my dad flipped channels on the TV. My mom was nice enough to fold my clothes. At last the time had come for us to head over to the doctor’s office. I ran to the bathroom to look one last time at the two moles that had invited themselves to my face 17 years ago and never left. As much as I was prepared to have them removed, I was still going to miss them.
It was a rainy, overcast, and generally dreary day…poetic, I thought. When we arrived at the doctor’s office, we were the only ones there. It was only a matter of minutes before his secretary, a woman who desperately needed to be on the receiving end of a weed-whacker (to remove the copious amounts of hair), asked me to sign the waivers that relinquish the doctor from major liability. I filled out my forms. My dad thumbed through People. My mom thought out loud about getting liposuction.
Soon after signing my life away, the nurse called me to go back to the examination room. I was pretty nervous. I can’t really explain why I was so nervous. I have had these sorts of procedures performed on me before. The very last time, for some absurd reason, I convinced myself that the Novocain would wear off and I would feel everything. I got a little queasy then, and I guess I was afraid that the same thing would happen this time. Needless to say, it didn’t happen either time. When the doctor arrived, I made a comment about being nervous, and he replied, “Why? Have you heard of my reputation as the butcher?” He continued to make these dumb, yet reassuring comments. So far, I give him an A+ for bedside manner. He definitely did his best to put me at ease, and I appreciated that.
Now comes the gory part.
He asked me if I wanted to begin with the most painful part or the second most painful part. Before I could decide (I was leaning toward the most painful), he suggested that I go with the lesser so as to be better prepared for the other. I was not prepared for either. He warned me that I was going to feel a stick. I felt a stick as the needle penetrated what I can only guess (I had my eyes closed since I sat in the chair) was the area between my nose and my cheek (where the pads of glasses rest). Then he said, “Now your going to feel some burn.” It was like no pain I had ever felt before. It wasn’t some burn, it was like a major burn. I wanted to kick my legs, but I tried to be tough. My right eye started tearing badly. Finally he told me it was over and here we go on the worst part. I asked him to give me a moment. We both waited patiently until my eye stopped tearing, and after a second, I took a deep breath and said, “OK.” He again said, “Small stick” and that’s all I heard. If I thought the other shot was bad, this was the mother of all shots. It felt as if he had gone in at the bridge and pushed a red-hot poker straight down to the very tip of my nose. I wanted to scream; I wanted to kick; I wanted to run. I grit my teeth and felt the tears run down the sides of my face. Then it was over and the pain lingered about a second or two longer.
The rest of the procedure went just fine. I can’t really tell you much because I was in my happy place and ignoring everything else. I can tell you that after the Novocain, the next worst part was the sutures. I couldn’t feel anything, but I could hear the thread as it scraped through the skin. Then, in order to minimize scarring as much as possible, he had to pull the sutures tight before cutting them. I could feel the skin pulling as he pulled taught on the sutures.
Then it was over, and my parents and I went home. I told my dad that I wanted a lollipop, but he wouldn’t give me one. We went over to CVS and got cotton balls (which we returned because my dad read the instructions that the doctor gave me and it said to use Q-Tips instead), Band-Aids, Hydrogen Peroxide, Tylenol, and Neosporin.
We went back to my apartment, watched some more TV, and then we headed to dinner. We dined at the Outback Steakhouse I got a rib-eye. It was very, very good.
Even though it was minor surgery, and I only had 2 moles removed, it was still a trauma to my body, and I was beat, so I went to bed and slept almost 12 hours.
As I was falling asleep I wondered if I will feel phantom pains in my amputated moles.