category: travel

travel TWTWTW

That was the week that was.

Apparently something happened around the afternoon of the 5th, around the time I arrived in Montreal, that caused my computer to shut itself off. So the cron job that pulls the feeds that keep this blog updated with my various activities couldn’t run. I have no idea why; I can’t tell from the logs what happened. Just that when I got home tonight the computer was powered off.

Getting home today was the suck. Bus from the hotel to the bus station, much faster than I allowed for. Bus from the bus station to the airport, faster than I allowed for. Got to the airport three hours before my flight. Great. But then my flight didn’t take off. For ages. Apparently there was “passing lightning” or something? I never saw any lightning. I definitely saw rain in the morning, but I never saw lightning. So the flight took off over an hour late. I landed in Philadelphia, missed my connection, waited some more, got another flight to National, flew to National.

Then the suck began in earnest.

I got to the SuperShuttle desk and was told there were no vans, there’d be no vans for at least 45 minutes, and I could call the 800 number and get a refund, or I could wait it out, but if I waited longer than 15 minutes, I couldn’t get a refund, because the person went home at 11. Which: what? But whatever. It’s National, right, it’s right on the Blue Line, so I figured I’d just get home that way. I called David and asked if he’d drive me home from Vienna, and he said he would. Great.

I walked back through the airport to the Metro station, I bought a farecard, and I went up to the platform. I realized I was on the wrong side, then I realized the other side was completely inaccessible. As in, blocked off. Empty. Broken. Turns out there are no Blue Line trains between, like, King Street and Rossyln, and no Yellow Line trains between, like, Braddock Road and L’Enfant. All summer. So there is no way to use the Metro to go north from the airport.

If only I lived in Springfield.

So I went back out of the Metro station (cost: $1.35) and back through the airport, figuring I’d take a cab to where David can pick me up. At least I knew I couldn’t take a cab to Manassas. Taxi stand guy told me he couldn’t let any of the cabs there go to Vienna, they were DC cabs, and handed me a rate sheet. Bless the rate sheet, because it showed Vienna at $34 and Rosslyn at $11. Hey, Rosslyn is where I was going to go on the Blue Line anyway! I asked if I could please go to the Rosslyn Metro station instead. A Virginia cab showed up, he takes credit cards, great, he drove me to Rosslyn (cost: $13).

Keep in mind I’m doing all this while dragging two bags, one of which is the giant rolling duffel that’s really unwieldy in the best of circumstances. It’s really hot (I’ve been in Canada for a week and I thought it was humid there), I’m sweaty, I’m tired and cranky and exhausted.

And now I have to go down the Rosslyn Metro escalator. Which scares the bejeezus out of me and always has.

So I went down, I got on a train to Vienna (cost: $2.35), David was there, he drove me home. On the way we discussed as how I did not ride a boat, a bike, a rickshaw, or a covered wagon today, but I pretty much covered every other form of transportation.

I still don’t know if I can get the thirty-four dollars I prepaid SuperShuttle back, but it feels so good to be home I almost don’t care. This whole week I just hemorrhaged money like it was bad for me and I had to get rid of it. I managed to get home with absolutely no Canadian cash on me through a careful process of overtipping and charity, but it just means I spent more than I need have. I think the cheapest meal I had all week was $10, and most were three times that.

I also had to pay $15 each way to check a bag. It was an award flight, so it was really cheap, I keep telling myself that, but that $15 checked-bag fee is just a big extra kick in the nuts as far as I’m concerned. I spent all my miles to do this trip. It’s time to switch my loyalties to Southwest.

family My weekend in Parma

(I don’t know if you know, but I went with Jackie, the daughter of my paternal grandmother’s sister, and her son Shaughn [Four of Seven] to visit her parents [my grandmother’s sister and her husband] this weekend. There are other names in here: Margaret is the wife, Jack is the husband, Meg is One of Seven, Grady was Margaret and my grandmother’s second-oldest brother [Two of Nine], Sport [a nickname] was their brother Henry [Five of Nine], Steve is Jackie’s husband. Margaret and Jack have lived in the same house since roughly 1951.)

We left around 8 am and got there around 3 pm. Jackie has the drive down to a science, knows exactly the best places to stop, and so on. Shaughn was the only one with us, and it had been a year since he was there, but he knew the route too. I offered to drive but she didn’t take me up on it.

The house looks exactly the same as the last time I saw it twelve years ago! Jack & Margaret look a little the worse for wear, as you’d expect, but honestly not as bad as I had feared. Jack sits in a wheelchair because it’s easier to get in and out of than the sofas, but he walks around the house. He uses a walker Steve got him, but he moves fairly easily, and he gets in and out of the car and the house just fine. Margaret uses a cane outside the house and a walker sometimes in the house. Her knee seems to be really bothering her, but she didn’t seem to have any trouble bending to pick things up, and sitting/getting up.

Jackie took the shopping list and went to the grocery store, and Shaughn and I stayed to visit. The pictures from the wedding, and especially (surprisingly) the picture and stories of Jasper, were a big hit. Shaughn had been reading “Flags of Our Fathers” in the car as part of his summer reading for school (going into 9th grade) and he became a little obsessed with Iwo Jima. He got all kinds of stories from them about things that happened during the war. We also got lots of stories of the Butlers. Margaret kept saying that Jeff’s picture, especially the profile, looked just like her brother Grady, and Shaughn is just like Sport.

Jack doesn’t seem to be able to see much of anything; he moves around the house with familiar ease but I’m not sure he can actually SEE the house. He cups his hands over his ears to hear, and Jackie told me yesterday that she and Steve have tried to get him to consider hearing aids but he hates the idea.

But I was heartened to see that both of them are completely … I’m not sure what the word is, the opposite of dementia. The sense of humor is still there (I do so like to make people laugh and I was able to), the stories come out, they aren’t forgetting people’s names. Jackie and I agreed, after seeing it happen (Steve’s dad, two of my grandparents), that it is better for everyone that her mom and dad have the problems they do, as opposed to suffering through Alzheimer’s.

It was a couple of hours before Jackie got back from the supermarket. She apparently does this every time; the fridge upstairs and the freezer downstairs (Margaret can still do the basement stairs, apparently, though I didn’t see it happen) are stuffed with easy-to-make things (frozen pizza, steakumms, etc.) and baked goods. I could have quite happily lived there! Jackie forgot a few things that weren’t on the list and I offered to go out and get them. Shaughn went with me. I was planning to fill the car up with gas while I had it, but Jackie had beaten me to it. $2.57 a gallon in Parma. I wanted to fill the trunk!

We went out to dinner. Guess where. Did you guess Red Lobster? Because I saw that coming. Shaughn rolled his eyes, doesn’t like seafood, but came along gamely and ordered a steak! I had snow crab legs and a beer. No one would let me pay, but I tried. We sat and talked some more, and I was very tired so I went to bed barely later than Jack did, maybe 9 pm. I slept in what I remember being the playroom, Jackie in the guest room, and Shaughn on the sofa.

I was repeatedly invited to Mass but declined. When they got back around 11:30 on Sunday, Jackie and I went out to Subway and got lunch for everyone (this is also apparently part of the routine for these visits). Jack had asked her to get an anniversary card for Margaret (“something with a lot of words”), so we went to Walgreens on our way back with the sandwiches and read them *all* before finding one that seemed to fit. We had apple pie for dessert, and then Jackie went through the mail and the bills and whatnot with Margaret (again, routine).

We left around 1:30 on Sunday. Traffic was pretty bad on I-70. We were stuck at one point and went about a mile and a half in two hours. Shaughn was bummed because the other boys were going to go see the Simpsons movie last night and couldn’t wait long enough for him to get home. I was able to get online from the car and figure out where and what the delay was. It was close, so we didn’t bother trying to go around, and the traffic was fine the rest of the way.

We got back to Gaithersburg around 9, and I got home around 10.

In other news, Meg cut her hair, way up to about chin level. It’s so thick and wavy that it’s hard to tell how long it really is. She donated the rest of it to Locks of Love, the cancer-wig cause. We agreed as how those guys were probably pretty happy to see her hair walk in. It looks really cute short. I don’t think it’s been that short since she was very small.

Maybe this is more information than you wanted. Sorry. I’m glad I went, anyway.

cat A tiny aside

It’s not a real entry, okay? Don’t guilt me.

I spent four days in New York. Then we went and saw Lyle. Then we went to the beach for a week. Roughly in that order. The photos are up on the photo site. I’m completely wiped out, and I’m very glad I don’t need to travel again until September, when I go down past Blacksburg to see my parents and uncle and the Charles Vess exhibit in Abingdon.

Jasper is completely insane. I didn’t believe Cindy when she said this, but it is true. I don’t know that he wasn’t insane before he lived at her house for a week, but he probably was. All week he hasn’t slept for more than a couple hours at a time, and his vertical leap has definitely improved. He still won’t let me out of his sight.

The aside is that I made myself a Simpsons character, and that amuses me. Show me you.


travel One of my favorite pictures from New York

And my favorite picture from MoMA.


(the new room they have the waterlilies in is such a huge improvement I can’t even believe it)

travel Traveling makes me tired!

I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping you abreast of things. My brother got successfully married. We had fun. I’ve told my proximate friends a million stories. I haven’t the energy to tell them again here. We went to New York this weekend and just got back. Again, I don’t have the energy to tell the stories, and again, they are many. When I get all the pictures online I will try to put explanatory text on them. You look at the pictures, right?

Jasper is fine. I left him alone this weekend (except for a visit from Alan that I’m pretty sure happened on Sunday because he brought in my paper and moved my flowerpot and turned off the faucet I’d left dripping) and when I got home—and up to about five minutes ago—he freaked the hell out. But he’s fine.

Here, for the time being, is a list of states visited by me (on the ground only; flyovers don’t count, but layovers and train stops do) solely in the month of June. States where I will have slept are in bold.

North Carolina
District of Columbia
New Jersey
New York
New Jersey
District of Columbia
North Carolina

family There’s a wedding tomorrow.

Zero days, six hours, nine minutes, fifty-one seconds. This widget has been counting down for a while now. I believe there’s a screenshot of it from several weeks ago on the blog someplace. I’ll leave finding that as an exercise for the reader.

I have the flu, have had since shortly after arriving in California on Tuesday, and I feel like death warmed over most of the time. Once the Theraflu kicks in, and I fall asleep, I’m good. I wake up, I take more Theraflu, and I fall asleep again. I haven’t slept less than twelve hours a night since I got here. Tonight will be less, because I have to be up and around in time to meet Lisa and the other bridesmaids at the salon at 11.

During the day, I take Dayquil, but the times between the Theraflu wearing off and the Dayquil kicking in are bad, bad times indeed. I’m supplementing my diet with Zicam rapid-melts (“shortens the duration”), but I’m not sure it’s making a difference. I’m also taking an Allegra-D every day, because I am a decongestant racist. I firmly believe that the dextromethorphan in Dayquil doesn’t work, and that the phenylephrine in Theraflu doesn’t work, and that the pseudoephedrine in Allegra-D does work. Bless two-years-ago me for laying in a supply of a prescription decongestant.

We had the rehearsal today. I’m only about sixty-seven percent confident of my ability to do things properly. I’m the first one down the aisle, you see, and I’m not completely clear on where to stand. It’s also going to be dastardly hot.

The rehearsal dinner was delicious, with good service and nice table karma. Everyone in the wedding (I’d only met the best man, the maid of honor, and one of the groomsmen before this week) seems just positively lovely and delightful. Lisa’s family are all lovely and delightful. My parents’ friends (including Nicole and Michele’s parents, who I can’t believe came) are lovely and delightful.

It is exhausting.

The best thing I did today was to spend an hour in the pool and whirlpool after dinner. I had the whole place completely to myself, and it was great. For a while I felt like I wasn’t sick, I never had been sick, and the world was quiet and wet and soft and light.

travel IM conversation

my mom, as usual, has convinced me something horrible will happen

what, between here/ny/boston?!
or IN boston?

no in boston


she was like, how are you going to get around, are you renting a car? and I said no, we’ll take a cab if it’s not nearby. and she says, in that OH SO ANNOYING WAY OF HERS, “well I guess as long as there’s two of you, you should be okay”

like in that way where her words say one thing but her tone says OBVIOUSLY YOU WILL BE RAPED AND LEFT FOR DEAD IN A DUMPSTER

travel Photos from Sacramento

Just a couple highlights. Two of my favorites (“Giant Boat of Sushi” and “Baby at the Bar”) are on my dad’s camera and will be forthcoming. The photo page (linked above) is also up to date now.

This is the cool-ass rug in the Sacramento airport, as seen on Boing Boing.

This is Zinfandel Drive.

And this is my receipt from In-N-Out Burger. God damn, those are good.

I also went to Fry’s. Overall, those were the things I wanted to see and do, and I saw and did them.

If you go to the photo page you can also see our to-be-joined families, eight reasonable adults (well, seven; I took the picture) wearing stupid paper crowns out of the crackers. EVEN MY FATHER.

travel Mark, this one’s for you

I present to you the most bershon I have ever been photographed.

Elaine Leaving For Ussr 1990

This was the day I left for Russia on a school trip in the spring of 1990. I have no idea why I was interested in looking so goddamn blasé about it!

travel Miscellany

I’m utterly addicted to McSweeney’s DVD magazine series Wholphin, which has had all of two issues so far. The first issue had a half-hour Turkish sitcom with several different sets of subtitles. Even the original “true” story was funny, but the ludicrous invented stories were even better. I’m just now starting watching issue two.

Space Mountain has been completely changed from what I recall. It may just be that I’m so familiar with the way things are in Orlando that I don’t recognize the ride in Anaheim, and of course it was closed when Jeff and I were at Disneyland last (in 2003), but the ride is better than I ever remember it being. You don’t sit single-file anymore, which is a great improvement, and the ride is smoother, darker, and above all faster. It may just be the darkness (the star effect is much improved), and they may be doing some crazy-ass Innovention wind-machine crap, but it feels like you’re going way, way too fast in there. Space Mountain is really just a mousetrap roller coaster in the dark, but I rode the damn thing twice last night, waiting half an hour even at the last chance (10:40 pm) because it was just so damn great.

I’m somewhere over Arizona. I thought you’d like to know. Retroactively.

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