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Of Princesses and Fire

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Saturday, October 26 – I managed to sleep in until 8:45, which wasn’t really all that much sleeping in, considering that I didn’t get to bed until nearly 2 the previous night. Still, better than the usual awakening at 8 o’clock sharp. I went out to get Becky and I some much-needed bagels from Einstein’s for breakfast, then we headed back out to run some errands in Toco Hills: first to the Kroger for some party snacks, then to the nursery next door for pumpkins, then, finally, to Toco Giant for party booze. I took a much-needed shower after that, then I set about doing some chores to prep for the party: I vacuumed Giles’ couch in the front room, I threw the blankets we use to cover the couches into the wash, I vacuumed our main couch (that sucker was by far the most expensive piece of furniture I’ve ever purchased, but 9 months on, I still love it), I swept up some, I helped Becky to move our big, Oriental rug so it wasn’t off at an angle like it had drifted to over the past couple of months, and then I finished the vacuuming and sweeping. Whew! But good news! After catching my breath for a bit, I did more chores: I threw my clothes into the laundry, I swept up the back deck, I set up the deck chairs, folding table, and the cooler, and, finally, I set up our Tiki torches in the back, including the nice centerpiece one that Paul and Meera had gotten us for our housewarming party a few months earlier.

While I was working on setting up out back, Becky was decking the halls with fake cobwebs:

Spoooky! She also got Cornelius dressed up for the occasion:

With all that done, Becky laid down and took a nap as I watched some Futurama on TV, then did the dishes. I replaced the cushions on Giles’ couch after that, as they were finished from having gone through the laundry. Don’t worry: Giles would make them filthy again in no time. For then, though, Becky and I went out to get a late lunch/early dinner at Taco Mac in Decatur. Or, we would have, were it not too busy, despite a relative dearth of Sportsball on right then. We opted for Big Tex instead, and that worked out just fine.

When we returned home, I started us a fire in the fireplace, then we put on some of Starbuck, a Quebecois movie about a middle-aged guy who can’t seem to get his life on track, but suddenly finds out that he has hundreds of illegitimate children, thanks to a clerical error at a sperm bank he periodically donated to in his youth to get money. Then hilarity ensues, in mangled French. Actually, it was pretty good. Good enough that they decided to make a near-scene-for-scene remake starring Vince Vaughn a few months ago. Which is why Hollywood cannot have nice things.

I set up – but did not light – our fire pit out back, then I got dressed at around quarter after six. Minus the head, of course. Becky and I continued watching Starbuck as we waited for our guests. Before any arrived, though, we took some shots in front of Becky’s big mural. Though she didn’t manage to get everyone throughout the night (I know we missed Deb’s rather hilarious Minion Dave from Despicable Me due to her arriving later on after taking non-blurry photos became a difficult task, and, of course, some folks couldn’t be bothered to put on a costume despite my numerous threats against doing so), it provided a great ersatz photo booth for our guests:

Becky was the prettiest Flame Princess. As you can see, she got actual flames this time! Well, sparklers. Still, they wouldn’t allow those in the Shelter the previous night, so that was a plus for her.

As for me, being slightly weary from the night out at the Shelter on Friday only added to my costume, in terms of my body posture:

Of course, anyone not wearing a costume would be deemed to be:


Should my food be spiced or if I was told that I really smell like dog buns, then:


Fortunately, our first guests did no such thing. Sam and Lisa started it off, arriving at 7 o’clock. Lisa was Princess Witch:

…and Sam was Princess Brony:

We got things going from there. They arrived with Cicy, who made sure Giles was a pretty princess, too, in his dog-shirt:

The rest of our guests started arriving after that. There was Hair Metal Rocker Tim:

…or maybe he was dressed in Dutch high fashion, circa 2005. Not quite sure which.

I think one of our favorite outside-the-box costumes was Heather’s:

Just scrubs? Nope, we recognized her as being Piper Chapman from Orange is the New Black. Becky liked it enough that she took another picture in profile for her mug shot:

They also brought a friend of theirs, whose name I forget/lost when my phone died in January. She was Princess Nurse:

Another honorable mention should go to Lynn and Ted:

We didn’t really know Lynn and Ted; they’re friends of Sam’s and Lisa’s whom we had yet to meet. But – unlike literally everyone else who fits that category – they decided that it didn’t matter that Sam’s and Lisa’s Halloween party was being held at the house of some folks they’d not met before, and came anyway. We really appreciated that, and so they get gold stars.

Chuck, meanwhile, also rode his bike in, but he seemed to be hiding his face from us:

When we got a look at poor Jim, we figured out why:

The GADOT helmet really completes the ensemble.

I think one of our favorites, overall, was Elizabeth’s 70s Housewife, if only because she sold it so well, bringing her own “VALIUM” and Scotch tumbler:

Though, after Cicy put her crown on him, the ever-surly Princess Paul was a real cutie, too:

Pictures in which Paul is smiling: somewhat more rare/less verifiable than pictures of the Loch Ness Monster.

The evening went by quickly and smoothly. Jim had brought Maddy along, so Giles had someone to dog-play with, too:

After it had gotten going, I made a nice fire out in our pit. To date, it’s the only real use we’ve gotten out of it, but it was still worthwhile:

Though, really, it was more suited for Becky than for me:

Ah, there we go.

Before long, I realized it was past 11 o’clock, and that most of the party was still outside, and, furthermore, loud, so I wrangled folks back inside. This pleased Giles, as he loves nothing more than getting under foot:

I wonder what he’s looking at?

Ah, Sam being Sam. Of course.

And really, that’s as good a place as any on which to wrap it up. As things wound down, I put on several episodes of Adventure Time for Elizabeth and Lisa. The last of our guests departed at about 12:30, then we cleaned up as best we could, before hitting the sack at around 1. A very good time, I’d say. Not a super-high turnout, but we’re still glad that everyone who made it came. And I, especially, was very glad to just be able to get some sleep.

Sunday, October 27 – okay, you guys, I know this is going to come as a huge shock, but, after staying up partying until 2 AM on Friday and then 1 AM on Saturday, I woke up feeling pretty darned ill. I know, right? I got myself up very slowly, but couldn’t manage to go get groceries with Becky. As she went on her own, I instead cleaned off the porch and put away the Tiki torches. So at least I wasn’t completely worthless. I laid down for a bit after that, then I did the dishes, then made myself an early lunch to try to put something on my stomach. I ate as we watched some of a show called Orangutan Diaries, about the same facility in Orangutan Island, but filmed by a British crew, a year earlier. It was decent enough, and so we decided to record some more of it, since there appeared to only be a few episodes of it.

We followed that with a Breaking Magic (the one with actual reveals of magic tricks), then we put on a Rick Steves’ Europe about the countryside of the Czech Republic. Good, since we missed that. I got up to call my mom and check up on her after that, then we watched another Breaking Magic, followed by some of Going Medieval, a British-produced History Channel show about, well, Medieval times. It was kind of silly, though, and so we turned it off in favor of Chris Hardwick’s standup special off the DVR. It was funny, but we’d heard about half of the jokes in it from when he’d come to Atlanta on tour in 2012. Still, it gave us something to watch as we finally carved our pumpkins:

Fun fact: carving letters is WAY more time consuming than I thought it would be. But, there you go, completing my costume, if a bit late for the party.

When we finished with that, I drove out to get us some Pizza Hut for dinner. It was still grungy on the inside, it was still a shit show of inefficiency and behind the counter, and it still took forever to get the food I’d ordered. So, I decided that would be the last meal we got from there in some time. We eventually tried it again not long ago, but, while it was cleaned up some, it was still a disaster in terms of no one having a clue how to make the food in a less-than-obscene amount of time. So, screw that noise, I think.

On this particular evening, we ate while watching the new special, How to Build a Planet, hosted by Richard Hammond, famous for hosting Top Gear and/or nearly killing himself in a horrific car accident. How that qualifies him for astronomy facts is beyond me, but it was entertaining enough. Since Hammond sort of reminds me of a shorter, less-dreamy David Tennant, we put on a Doctor Who after that. Well, I guess I may like David Tennant, but Giles wasn’t as impressed:


We wound down the evening with the new China, IL, then we retired to bed for the night, nice and early, so as to try to catch up on sleep. Despite all indications, Halloween was still actually a few days away. We’d have one last event before then, too.

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The Earl of Sweatygrab

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Thursday, October 24 – summer appeared to have well and lost its grip upon Georgia as it was quite chilly when I walked Giles before heading into work for the morning. After getting a cup of coffee and reading for a bit, I started work on my poster for SfN (this would, to put it lightly, take a bit of effort to complete), then I stepped aside to help Shavonne get the floating table in our side-lab operational, to minimize vibrations as she was doing LFP experiments. I spent the rest of the morning working on the poster, then, after lunch, spent more or less the entire afternoon working on it, too! So exciting! Still, I needed to work up an outline in slide form before I could even think of the final layout, and so I really needed to get cranking on it. After a solid day’s work, I felt a lot better about it.

I left at 4:30 to meet Becky, then, after a brief trip to the gym, we headed home to get cleaned up and to have some burritos with meat from the crock pot for dinner. We ate while we watched the Daily Show and Colbert, but we didn’t have time for @midnight, as we had to head out at around 7:15 to go up to the big cinema off I-85. Since there isn’t all that much we go to that cinema for, least of which on a Thursday, that could really only mean one thing:

Rifftrax! We hadn’t gotten a chance to go to a live show yet in 2013, so we were glad we made it to at least one, just in time for Halloween. As you can see, it was a movie that featured a protagonist who appeared to go to WVU. But, actually, it was George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, the movie that launched the zombie movie genre:

Though, as the riffers pointed out, the word “zombie” was never used in the film. Still, rare is the movie that is both a cinematic classic and good MST3k material, so how could we not go? It was every bit as fun as we’d hoped, too.

We made it back home a bit after 10, then read some and put on a bit of Futurama before drifting off to sleep. Lots more fun to come the following evening.

Friday, October 25 – upon arriving at work, I poured myself a cup of coffee, then got right to the grind, adding some more data from Chaitanya to my poster outline. I did that right up to our lab meeting at 9:30, then I met with Paul to discuss what I had for the poster while I had my lunch. I took a break to read for a bit after that, then I talked to a grad student from the big lab on the same floor as us for a while, giving him instructions and tips on how to use the isoflurane system I’d loaned out to him. I read a bit more after that, gave a prospective Discovery Phase med student a tour of the lab, then left at 4:30 to pick up Becky at Yerkes.

I went home only briefly to drop off Becky so she could walk Giles, then I drove back out, first to the growler store to fill a couple for our party on Saturday, then to Fellini’s for pizza for dinner. I called my mom as I went, then, when I got everything set, I settled in and ate as we watched the Daily Show. I started us a fire in the fireplace as Becky gave Mary Elizabeth a call, then we watched Colbert, followed by the @midnight we’d missed, as well as the newest one. We followed that with Jeopardy!, then a show called Nature’s Matchmaker, all about efforts to repopulate critically endangered species. It was pretty interesting, overall, and I’ve love to see an update on all of the projects showcased a few years later.

We got dressed in our Halloween costumes after that (minus my head, of course, which would have to stay off until we arrived at our destination), then we departed the house at 10 o’clock – much later than our usual – to first stop at Kroger to pick me up some yellow dish gloves (we weren’t the only ones in costume there, and I found a nice, cheap pair without difficulty) and some cash for the evening, then finally to the Shelter for their Halloween party.

You may note I didn’t link to the Shelter’s website there. Unfortunately, they went out of business at the end of 2013. Still, this would prove to be an excellent final night there. We arrived late because we knew it wouldn’t get going until quite late, and we had to persevere until the costume judging contest. We just barely made it, too, as we snagged the very last parking spot in the sprawling lot the Shelter “shares” with the Booty-shaking club up the hill, a solid 100 yards away from the club. Still, we made it:

As you can see, I was the Earl of Lemongrab. Becky’s costume was not as elaborate, but I think she’d done an excellent job with working it out such that she could still move around, all while obviously being Fire Princess:

Yes, we both had Adventure Time costumes. Register your lack of shock and surprise here.

I wouldn’t exactly call the place “crowded” (later, we’d figure out that much of this was because folks don’t seem to want to go to Buckhead for a club night. I’d love to sniff my ITP nose at that, but I honestly can’t blame them. Becky and I both loved the Shelter but we would have loved it more if it was more or less literally anywhere else in Atlanta), but it was the most full of people we’d ever seen it. I suppose part of that was how popular Halloween parties are, and part of that was that we rarely arrived so late in the evening. Whatever it was, you can read Becky’s excellent writeup about it, done much sooner following the event. I’ll try to add my own spin here.

In hindsight, I really do like how Becky pulled off her costume. It was clear who she was, and it allowed her the freedom of motility to dance:

I, on the other hand, struggled most of the night to keep my head on straight:

Not that I didn’t give it the ol’ college try at dancing:

Fortunately for me, the stilted gait that would be expected of Lemongrab trying to dance covered up the fact that I was incapable of any more fluid movement. I think it helped, overall. I noticed the Mad Hatter next to me taking lots of pictures and seeming to mentally catalog things, so I made efforts to look good:

This would turn out to be a good decision, as he was, in fact, a judge, and I wound up getting selected for the finals for the costume contest. So that was nice.

Not so nice? The heat. So, dance clubs can get steamy. No surprise there. My gloves didn’t help, and by the end of the night I had to drain the sweat out of them, exposing my pruned-up hands in the process. That head, though, was the worst: it was a freaking oven in there. And rehydrating wasn’t exactly possible while staying in character:

Don’t worry, that beer was mostly there for show, and it took me the whole night to slowly sip it. I did take off my head from time to time to get water, too, but I tried to stay in character as best I could.

We continued dancing, and had a great time. Finally, as the night wore on, the costume contest was announced, and I was called up to the stage:

You might recall that, the previous year, at the Masquerade, the contest was a democratic one, in which costumes were rated on audience applause. A thoroughly elaborate Bender – well deserving of the title – wound up winning, but it relied a lot on folks “getting” the costume. Anyone who didn’t watch Adventure Time wouldn’t get ours, and so I was happy that I appealed to the judges. They gave me an opportunity to show off on stage:

I’d love to say I won, but I took first runner-up. Still a good deal, since I got a half-dozen free t-shirts, two of which are so nice I wear them regularly, and the rest of which I just use for the gym. So that’s not bad at all. If I had my druthers, I’d have awarded first prize to the hideous, zombie Grady twins from The Shining for being a good combination of well-executed and outside-the-box. Instead, it went to some girl in a catwoman outfit. Because, y’know, sexy sexy Halloween mrow, or… something. Eh. Excuse me if I don’t get too excited about that, but it seemed like the whole night was doing a great job of not being one of those Halloween parties, then it went ahead and awarded sexy over clever and/or well-made. I suppose it was somewhat inevitable.

Don’t get me wrong: we had a great time, and I in no way expected to win first prize myself. And, really, if that was to be the final trip we made to the Shelter, it was a great one.

I collected my free stuff, then we headed home for the night. It was late. We didn’t get back home until about 1:30, which is crazy for us in our relatively-old age. Still good to know it’s even possible for us to stay out that late on a Friday night, though. After getting cleaned up, though, I was overjoyed to be able to go to sleep. I’d need it: we had our own Halloween party the following evening.

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A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 5]

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Tuesday, October 15 – my alarm went off at 4:55 in the… whatever. The hour between 4 AM and 5 AM is too late to be called “night” but too early yet to qualify for “morning.” Still, reluctantly, we were awake. Becky’s mom insisted that, in order to get to Mike and Nicci’s house by 7 o’clock to babysit Sam while they were at work, she had to leave at 5:30. This, frankly, seemed absurd to me, but sure enough, shortly after packing up and leaving the house at, we hit traffic on MA-3 North. At, like quarter of 6 in the morning. When it was still pitch dark out. What the hell even is wrong with you, Boston.

We fought through it until a bit after 6 o’clock, at which point we merged onto I-93 North. Since there were 3 of us in the car, Becky’s mom was able to hop in the HOV lane, which made things go much faster than they would have were she in the car by herself. It only took us 20 minutes – instead of her usual 45 – to get up to the exit for Cambridge, meaning we arrived at Mike and Nicci’s in plenty of time, at around 6:40. This was fine by me, as the entire drive was a stressful experience, between the traffic and worrying about how well Becky’s mom could see in the dark. I asked – several times – if I could drive, but she insisted it was her thing to do. When we arrived, she told me, flatly, that she can’t see well in the dark. This didn’t make me feel much better about the whole experience, nor about her making that commute before dawn on a regular basis. Both Becky and I really wish she’d at least take the train up from Braintree, but I guess if you didn’t grow up taking trains, it’s hard to get in the habit of doing so.

At any rate, Sam was happy to see us, so much so that he abandoned half of his breakfast in order to start playing with his toys. Mike grabbed a quick bite and was out the door at 7, but Nicci stayed behind for 15 more minutes to try to get him to eat some more. Still, she was going to be late, so eventually she said goodbye to us, and headed off to work herself. Since TV is a no-no without Mom and Dad there, that meant we had plenty of time to play with Sam before we needed to be on our way:

Sam’s a really cute kid, and I suspect he’s genuinely quite bright for his age, too. He was – at the time – too young to be reading, really, but his object retention is excellent. As I went through a favorite book of his all about construction equipment going to bed for the night, he was able to not only tell me the name of each rig (some of which I didn’t know), but also what sound each one made. A couple of times I could have sworn he was reading the words, but I suspect he’d just memorized the pattern. Still, for all of 18 months old, that’s pretty great, I think. I know that Mike and Nicci both really invest a lot of time and effort into giving him a good environment in which to thrive, and, from everything I’ve read about early child development (which, I’ll admit, must dwarf what they’ve read, especially Nicci, given her career), that pretty much means he’ll come out as best as his genes will allow. And he’s got some good genes going for him, too.

We enjoyed playing with Sam for as long as we could, but at some point it was clear that the normal routine was “Sam plays with Grandma in the morning.” Which is just fine, since routines are fundamental to learning processes. Plus, we did have a flight to catch. So, at 8:30, we said goodbye to Sam and Becky’s mom (we’d see both in a bit over 2 months, for Christmas), then made our way, bags in tow, down Broadway toward Kendall Square. We stopped in at the Dunkie’s near Beauty’s for some late breakfast (there were even cops there on break. Oh Boston, never change), then we made our way down toward MIT:

We didn’t have a lot of time to kill, but we had a few moments in which Becky could pop into the Stata Center, for old times’ sake:

It’s funny, the things you miss after being away for a while. Becky doesn’t really miss her old job, per se, but the MIT community. It really was a great environment to be in 5 days a week, all full of drawings on public-access chalk boards:

…and, of course, the famous MIT hacks:

The police car is there as a museum piece celebrating one of the more famous hacks done decades ago, but the origami cranes were new to us. Apparently there’s a lab at MIT that does origami as a means of studying applied surface mathematics (because of course there is), so that might be related to that. Or it’s just pretty.

We arrived at the Kendall/MIT Red Line station at a bit before 9:30. I had some issues with an expired Charlie Ticket (apparently, I had two of them in my wallet, both of which were expired, and I’d picked one each on our journeys to and from the airport), but that was only a minor delay. It was still the tail-end of rush hour, and so it was only a brief wait until we got a train down to Park Street, where we hopped the Green Line out to Government Center. Apparently, while renovating the station in the past years, they unearthed a sign for the old Scollay Under station on the Blue Line platform:

I’m not a huge train geek, but the idea of lost underground stations really appeals to me, for some reason.

We pulled into Airport T Station right at 10 o’clock. A shuttle to the terminal was waiting for us there, though, thanks to the mid-morning rush of air travelers, it was quite busy. Still, we arrived at the Delta section and got our tickets without any issues, then passed through security with less of a wait than we’d experienced at ATL on the way out (fun fact: the TSA checkpoint at Hartsfield is, in fact, 57 varieties of horrible). This got us out to our departing gate at about 20 of 11, just a bit ahead of schedule:

I used the restroom, then went out to get some Sbarro for an early lunch. I know it was all of 2 hours after I’d eaten breakfast, but it was unlikely we’d get another chance to eat until we were back home, and so that would have to do.

Our flight didn’t seem too terribly busy, or at least everyone on it was more of a decent human being than your typical air travelers. We boarded at 11:45, then the plane shoved off at 12:11, slightly ahead of schedule. Of course, that won’t do at all for Logan, and so we sat on the tarmac for 20 more minutes before finally getting our wheels off the ground.

The flight was generally a quiet one, despite the Decaturite family of Overprivileged White People in the row ahead of us. Their kids were acting up during the brain-numbing period during which we sat on the ground, but they more or less calmed down (of their own volition, that is; it’s not like it’s not like good Hippie Crunchie Whole Foods-Shopping Flower Children would ever actually move to discipline their children) during the flight. I read some of a Smithsonian magazine I’d brought along, then more of Reamde on my Kindle.

Our flight managed to avoid the jetstream pushing up the coast, and so we touched down 15 minutes early, at 2:46. By minor miracle, we were at the gate only 7 minutes after that, then Becky and I both bolted off the plane and into the terminal, while our melanin-challenged friends in the row ahead of us still urged their unfortunately-named children to behave like not-children in the tired, flat affect that is so typical of someone trying something that didn’t work the first 500 times, but refuses to do it another way. There but for the grace of Having a Goddamn Clue.

We had put in at Terminal C, and so we had a brief ride on the shuttle tram to the exit:

Hooray for Atlanta!

The good luck we’d had with our train connections the entire journey finally ran out as we just missed a departing MARTA train upon arriving at the Airport Station. We wound up waiting another 10 minutes in the next train to arrive at the platform before it finally made its way north toward downtown. We arrived at Five Points Station at about quarter of 4, then immediately hopped on the Green Line train that just showed up. It would only take us as far as Candler Park Station, but waiting at Candler Park is immensely preferable to waiting at Five Points, in that the chances of getting stabbed by a homeless guy in broad daylight at Candler Park are relatively insignificant, unlike at Five Points. Fortunately, it was only five more minutes there before the next Blue Line train arrived, then took us the rest of the way to Decatur Station. We hoofed it from there out to Paul’s and Meera’s house, where we picked up the car, none the worse for the five days’ wait there. From there, we fought our way through evening rush hour traffic back to our house, finally pulling into the driveway to make it home at quarter of 5.

Whew! What a trip!

We confirmed that everything in the house was as we left it, then we opened up some windows to air out the place, as it had warmed up while we were gone. We unpacked our bags after that, then I started my laundry from the trip, emptied the dishwasher, and then checked my Internets that I’d missed out over the past five days, as Becky headed out to Stone Mountain to pick up Giles. He was, of course, overjoyed to see us and to be home when she returned with him.

By that point we were getting pretty hungry, and so I went out to Zaxby’s to get us some dinner. We ate while watching the Daily Show, then I folded my laundry as we watched the Colbert Report. We put on the end of Game 3 of the ALCS after that (the Sox won), then we watched Jeopardy!, followed by a DS9 from Netflix. When that ended we were quite tired out, and so we went the heck to bed.

All in all it was an excellent trip, and I’m very happy with how it all went. We didn’t have any time to see friends in Boston, but we’d instead caught up with several older friends I hadn’t seen in far too long. We’d also visited some places that are near and dear to both me and to Becky, for which there is no good replacement down here. We had only 5 days to absorb as much of Massachusetts as we could, all while ostensibly going up for a wedding. I think we did a pretty darned good job of it.

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A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 4]

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Monday, October 14 – we awoke at around quarter of 8, having slept decently, but not altogether perfectly, thanks to some barking dogs next door. After getting showered and dressed for the day, we headed downstairs to have some coffee and cider. As we waited for Becky’s mom to finish getting ready for the day, I went out front to get a picture of the sun coming through the trees:

It looked like it was going to be a nice day, and so we were enthusiastic to go out for a drive somewhere. We watched a Daily Show rerun, followed by some of a How It’s Made, as Becky’s mom took care of the dogs, then we finally got ourselves loaded into her car and headed out by around 10 o’clock.

To let Becky’s mom rest (and because, once I get into a driving mood, it’s hard to stop me), I took the wheel as we made our way down MA-3 South. There was very little traffic on a Monday morning in mid-October, and so it was only a half-hour until we hit the Sagamore Bridge and so arrived at the tail-end of the Cape. From there, it was another hour as we wound the curve on US-6 up past Wellfleet and to Truro, where we merged onto Route 6A, the scenic back-route that took us into Provincetown:

Distance so far: 91 miles

We didn’t have a lot of time to see the Cape on this trip, and since the chilly breeze coming off the Atlantic meant it was hardly beach weather, we decided to go all the way to the end and stop in at P-Town:

Thanks to all the local shops still being open even this late in the season, there were plenty of people there. We wound up parking in a pay lot out in front of the central pier:

By the time we got the car safely stowed away so we could hit the town on foot, it was drawing close to noon. Since we’d yet to have any solid food that day, we elected to immediately find some place to get lunch. Fortunately, the Surf Club Restaurant was nearby, and so we headed straight there to get a table out on the patio:

The place was hardly busy, but a group of middle-aged tourists from the Netherlands or thereabouts (whatever they were speaking sounded like garbled German, which, to me, mostly means Dutch, but Danish can also sound vaguely German-esque without context to my ears) sat down shortly after us, and so we had enough time to take some pictures of Becky with her mom as we waited for our food:

I had some lovely clam chowder and some decent fish and chips. All in all, pretty good, though, admittedly, Becky and I quite rarely get fresh seafood, what with the whole “living 200 miles inland” thing and all.

After finishing our meal, we went for a nice stroll down the pier:

In hindsight, this was a great time to visit Provincetown. The weather was beautiful and sunny, but since it was only about 50 degrees out (and, of course, mid-October, well past beach season), there weren’t very many folks walking along the shore. This made for some great postcard photo opportunities:

Look! Boats! Quaint seaside New England scenery!

A pier in front of the rolling hill of the town! So New England it hurts!

An old, salty fisherman wearing wader boots, towing a rowboat with his dog in it! Now you’re just showing off, New England!

Ah yes, and a seagull. Because no sea-side scene is complete without gulls basking in the sun:

…though some were clearly on their break from looking scenic, and just wanted to sit about all day:

After reaching the end of the pier, we turned back toward land. When we got to the parking lot, I found this sign:

I don’t know, Jennah, if it’s a good idea to post your phone number on the side of your car, along with the fact that you evidently live alone. I’m also not entirely sure how to parse “mature female, secure,” but I’ll have to trust you on that one. Still, $600 a month is hell of cheap, even out on the Cape, so maybe it’s not a bad deal after all. At least you know what kind of car your prospective housemate drives.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t have any issue with my lunch, but the same can’t be said for Becky’s mom. She started to feel ill, and so had to go sit down for a while. I see now that the place we ate at gets less-than-stellar reviews, so it’s possible her experience is far from atypical. She was a good sport about it, though, and encouraged us to move along for a bit until she felt better. This, of course, meant hitting up the fudge and candy shop right away:

Actually, we went to the one across the way from that one, since it was closed for a lunch break when we got there. But it’s more picturesque, so we’ll pretend we got candy from there. We were feeling pretty bloated from all the rich food we’d been having the past several days, and so we opted against getting fudge. Not that I didn’t seriously consider it, but restraint won out over hedonism.

From there, we walked down Commercial Street to Shop Therapy, every teenager’s dream-store:

Though their mural looks like it hasn’t been updated since the early-90s, so it still holds a bit of nostalgia for Becky (and me, to a lesser degree, in that I recognize the style, but my family rarely went to the Cape growing up, what with being on the other end of the state and all). Plus, they sell edgy stuff! With totally edgy signs all over the place!

In a misguided attempt to be cheeky, I opened one of the boxes. Before I knew it:

Aaah! A poorly-taxidermied lion… wolf… bear… thing!

I sure learned my lesson. We continued on out of there, stopping for a bit so I could hit up an ATM to get some cash so as to be able to buy some ice cream (apparently I was too bloated for fudge, but not ice cream. It’s a delicate balance, I know). This was made somewhat more complicated by the dude in line ahead of me, who appeared to be attempting to do his taxes using the ATM. The wait wasn’t totally in vain, though, as it gave Becky time to catch a nice shark:

Becky’s mom rejoined us at that point, then we all walked down to Marine Specialties, the most cluttered surplus store on the planet:

As Becky purchased some items there (including a nice pint glass we now regularly use at home), I wandered into the game store next door. It was actually really, really nice and had a great selection, but since we would by flying home the next day and I didn’t want to check any bags, I couldn’t get anything. Our board/card game collection would have to wait to grow.

We made our way back to the car at about quarter after 2, then hit the road down US-6. After passing through Wellfleet, though, we pulled off to the right, down an increasingly-narrow and poorly-defined dirt road leading out to the bay:

Total distance so far: 111 miles

At first, there doesn’t seem to be all that much to Lieutenant Island, aside from the long, flat beach, and the distinct lack of infrastructure leading to it, even in 2013:

But it’s a very calm, peaceful place, worth visiting for a walk alongside the dunes to the beach:

You see, due to its unique location within Cape Cod Bay, Lieutenant Island juts out like a sand bar into the current, catching and depositing lightweight objects that are carried on the surf. Namely, horseshoe crab husks:

You may recall that Giles was a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Dog who destroyed Becky’s horseshoe crab husks that she’d moved down from Boston with us. Apparently he thought they were potato chips specially made for dogs. Even though it was late in the season, Becky still hoped to be able to find some to replace the ones she’d lost. We were in luck, as the beach was studded with them, including several in remarkably good shape:

The biggest find of all – both literally and figuratively – though, was this guy:

That’s an actual crab, not just the husk of one! It must have become disoriented and washed ashore. It had to be very old, as, not only was it quite big, it was also covered in barnacles, meaning it hadn’t shed in some time:

Becky made a memorial for Old Crabby by surrounding him with the better-quality husks that we’d pulled from the beach:

We threw Old Crabby back into the water so he could return to the bay’s ecosystem, then we gathered up the husks and brought them back to the car so we could drive back to the house. After another hour on US-6 we hit the Sagamore Bridge at 4:30, then we pushed up MA-3 to make it back to the house right at about 5 o’clock:

Daily total distance: 185 miles

I wound up driving roughly 600 miles over the course of 4 days on this trip, thanks to Becky’s mom letting us borrow her car. That number may not sound all that impressive, but keep in mind that, in doing so, we never left the state of Massachusetts. We drove from Boston, out to a couple hundred yards short of the New York border, then back to the tip of the Cape, covering almost as much of the length of the state as you possibly can in the process. Not bad for a long weekend.

I knocked the sand out of my shoes when we returned, then I ordered Becky and me some bacon cheeseburger pizza for dinner from Capone’s, just down the road. I was positively starving, but Becky wasn’t feeling all that well, so we relaxed after eating, watching whatever we could find on TV: first some Seinfeld, then a Family Guy, then an episode of Big Bang Theory. After watching Jeopardy! at 7:30, we made ourselves some cocoa and had a couple of cookies. We watched some of Liar Liar as we had our dessert, then we finished off the evening with some Futurama. We retired to the bedroom at about 9 o’clock, packed up our things, then read some until we turned off the light at about 10.

It had been a lovely day, though a tiring one, for sure. On the one hand, we were saddened that we didn’t have the energy to go up to Boston that evening, as the four days of manic travel had worn on us and left us too pooped to make the journey there and back. But, on the other hand, we had to get up stupidly early the following morning, and perhaps it was for the best that we got some rest while we could. Our return trip would start well before the sun rose the following day.

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A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 3]

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Sunday, October 13 – I awoke in the morning at around 8 o’clock, then somewhat reluctantly got myself up to get showered and dressed for the day. I headed out at quarter of 9 by myself, as Becky got ready to go herself, so that I could get us some much-needed breakfast. After a brief stop at CVS for some cough drops for me, I drove up into town to go to the Dunkie’s on First Street:

Local distance: 3.1 miles

There was probably a closer one to us than that, but darned if I knew where it was. It was best to stick with what I knew. It was predictably busy on a Sunday morning, but I was able to get in and out without too much trouble. Oh Dunkie’s, visiting you outside of New England just doesn’t seem right, somehow.

After having our breakfast sandwiches and coffee back in the hotel room while watching some of Despicable Me on TV, we loaded up the car, checked out of the hotel, then hit the road back up toward Pittsfield. This time, though, we continued on US-7 North past Pontoosuc Lake, through Lanesborough, then hooked a left onto Brodie Mountain Road:

Distance so far: 16 miles

To any resident of the Berkshires, Brodie Mountain Road can mean only one thing:

Yep, we were at Jiminy Peak. It was a glorious – if somewhat chilly – and sunny Sunday morning, and we were fixin’ to ride the Alpine Slide. I had deliberately gotten there a bit after they opened at 10 o’clock, but from the looks of how busy it a) already was, and b) was constantly getting, we could have been better served by getting there right as the gates opened. Oh well, good to know for next time.

The tickets were certainly more expensive than I remembered them being, but whatever; it was a special occasion and we were on vacation. I was giddy with excitement as we took the chair lift up the mountain:

There were already some folks sliding down the track as we made our way up, but I was encouraged to see that it wasn’t too busy just yet:

After the lazy, 15-minute ride up to the top on the chair lift, Becky and I each grabbed a sled, then waited to go down the track:

I couldn’t help but notice some of the warning signs at the start of the track:

First off, barring skirting the laws of electromagnetism, I’m not entirely sure how one would propose to over-take a sled on the same track, as it would require passing through said sled. Second, “brakes DO NOT work in the Rain” [sic] seems rather ominous in pretty much any context. Still, Alpine Slide! Hooray!

Our first run was great, as there wasn’t yet much of a line at the top. Becky and I went down on the same track, so I was able to get a picture of her coming in after me:

The extra 90 pounds of weight I carry certainly helped me out in my velocity versus hers, too.

I was pretty chilly on the run down, so I quickly ran back to the car to grab my jacket to put on at the top of the mountain. With that done, we jumped back in line for the chair lift and went up again:

It was markedly busier this time and so it was clear that, if I was going to video record my run down the track, it was going to be then or never. I didn’t [yet] have a GoPro camera, so I had to balance my crappy Casio point-and-shoot on the dead-man’s-switch brake handle as I went by. This cut my speed some so as to not drop the camera and/or die, but it still came out looking pretty impressive, I think:

Despite going slower than usual, I still had to cut it off before the bottom, as the young girl in front of me had yet to clear the track as I was approaching. Oh well; you get the idea.

We had gotten two good runs in, but we felt like we could do with one last one before leaving. So, back up the mountain on the chair lift we went, for a third and final go of it:

This would clearly be our final run, if only because the line at the top was getting rather ponderous:

Still, we finally made our way down for one last trip down. This time, I let Becky go first, so I wouldn’t have to worry about catching up with a stranger in front of me:

It was my experience as a child, by the way, that the guy running it, there, was not paid nearly enough to enforce that “no racing” policy. Which is good, because racing is fun. Dangerous, but fun.

Still, no racing for us, at least this time around. It was a good final run, though, and I appreciate Becky taking the lead, as not only she, but the girl in front of her were still clearing the track as I pulled into the end:

I’m the fastest at sledding!

As we headed back to the car, Becky found a sign for a lost dog:

Strange, he looks like such a nice puppy.

She also found a wooly bear caterpillar to balance on her henna-covered hand:

While she chatted with her caterpillar-friend, I tried to find the men’s room:

Whoops, sorry dude.

Still, despite the pooping skeletons, it was an excellent time. It was a bit past noon by the time we finished, too, and so we decided that we should get some lunch for our next stop. I knew just the place, back in Pittsfield:

Total distance so far: 30 miles

And, really, is there any question as to where we’d be getting lunch?

No, of course not. Going to Pittsfield and not eating at Teo’s is like going to Rome and not seeing the Colosseum. If the Colosseum had delicious, tiny hot dogs, that is:

Oh Teos. As typical, the place had a decent number of townies in it, but it wasn’t altogether too busy. The waitress took our order with all the courtesy you expect from western New England, then, several minutes later, the plates you see above were plopped down in front of us, along with the check. Welcome to Pittsfield: eat then get the hell out.

Still, so good. Objectively, I think, not even relative to my own childhood memories. We got four with ketchup, two with everything, two with cheese, and two with “sauce,” which is what they refer to the chili they ladle onto some of those dogs as. It is as unpretentious a meal as you can possibly get. And I loved every bite of it.

There’s only one proper way to top off a meal at Teo’s. Conveniently, it involved backtracking down to South Street:

Total distance so far: 33 miles

They have Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops outside of New England, I know, but it just doesn’t feel right to go to them (much like Dunkie’s). Plus, the one in Pittsfield is one of the oldest ones still in operation in the country. It still proudly supports its minimalist cow pasture wall-mural that I remember being there s a kid. The Liz Lemon Greek Frozen Yogurt sign was new, though:

As much as I enjoy 30 Rock, that actually sounds kind of gross. Blerg!

I instead opted for coconut ice cream, since it was a scoop shop-only flavor. It wasn’t life-changingly amazing, but it did the trick. Ice cream achievement: unlocked.

It was already 1:30 by that point, and we were still on the wrong end of the state from where we needed to be that evening. So, after gassing up the car as we continued down South Street, we left Pittsfield for good, then the Berkshires, as we merged onto I-90 East and made our way back toward Boston. So long, Berkshires. If this was my final visit to you for many years, then I’d say it was a very good one.

Given that it was Sunday, we didn’t really have any issues with traffic on the trip back East. When we hit Exit 14 and the intersection with I-95, we instead continued on into Boston, then hooked off Exit 18 across the bridge, and up into Cambridge. We followed Prospect Street up to Inman Square, then picked our way through local roads to arrive at Becky’s brother’s and sister in law’s house at quarter of 4:

Total distance so far: 138 miles

When we arrived, Mike and Nicci weren’t quite home yet. Instead, it was just Becky’s sister Jen and, of course, her nephew Sam:

Mike came back very shortly after we arrived, then we all sat down and chatted for a while, as it had been a few months since we’d seen one another. Sam was growing up quite quickly, and had reached the phase of toddler-hood where he wanted to show all the adults around him how his toys worked:

We were mostly there to see him, and so it was good that he was in a spry mood for the time, even wanting to continue to play with us after Nicci got home (the usual indication that it was time for his nap):

His ability to recall the names of various items was pretty impressive, especially in the case of construction equipment. Sam loves construction equipment. Fortunately, there were several sites within walking distance of their house, and so he’s able to occasionally go out to see some in real life with his Dad or Grandma.

Speaking of Grandma, it was getting close to 6 PM and we still hadn’t checked back in with Becky’s mom, whose car we were still borrowing. We said goodbye to Mike, Nicci, Jen and Sam (though we’d see all of them except for Jen again before leaving), then we made our way down to I-93 (despite some construction on an on-ramp that I’m sure Sam would have been more entertained by than I was), then to MA-3 South from there, and back down to Marshfield:

Daily total distance: 196 miles

We were relieved to hear that Becky’s mom had not been terribly inconvenienced by our use of the car for the past couple of days. It really made this trip so, so much easier, and so I’m very grateful she let us use it. We brought our stuff back inside as she watched the tail end of the Pats-Saints game, then we sat down to have some ziti for dinner. I had the best of intentions of watching Game 2 of the ALCS that evening, but after the first inning, all of the physical, mental, and emotional activity of the past several days finally caught up with me, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I retired to bed with Becky at 8:30, then we read some out of a hokey Scary Stories book she’d found from her own childhood collection. By 9:10, we were tired enough to turn off the light and go to sleep. It was an early night, for sure, but it had been an excellent day. An excellent several days. We had one more full one before our return home.

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A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 2]

Comments Off on A Voyage Across Massachusetts [Day 2]

Saturday, October 12 – we awoke around 7:15 in the morning, bright and early. We took our time getting going, though, laying around some and watching some Mr. Ed on TV, then some She-Ra and SpongeBob Squarepants. Hey, given the state of the TV in the room, it was remarkable that we got reception at all.

After getting cleaned up and dressed for the morning, we headed out at a bit before 9 o’clock. Our first stop was just right across the road, so I could say goodbye to an old friend:

It had closed in April, but there were no signs of any progress to either demolish or re-open the place. Later, we’d overhear a couple of folks in Pittsfield still talking about it, six months after the closure. It’s so strange to me, living in a rapidly-growing area now, how any change is seen as traumatic in western New England.

Not that all change is good, mind you. For example, I was more than pleased that our next destination was still up and running:

Local distance: 7.8 miles

I missed the turnoff onto South Mountain Road, and so had to head into town and all the way up to West Housatonic (hey, I left Pittsfield when I was 15 and so never drove there, give me a break), but we eventually made our way down Barker Road to good old Bartlett’s Orchard:

Unfortunately, though it was unquestionably cider season, they’d changed around the place a bit, such that the window into the cider press was no longer visible:

Not that they were running the press so early in the day, anyway, but I do have fond memories of watching the machine devour apples into a sort of chunky slurry, then press them out into cider, leaving behind square-yard wafers of dehydrated apple remains. The press was still behind the mostly-obscured window, but it was clear it wouldn’t be running any time soon. While that was no longer something I could see there, everything else remained the same: the cider doughnuts were warm and still, to this day, the best I’ve ever had. We picked up a dozen (because vacation, dammit), I got some coffee, and Becky got some maple candy for herself and a half-gallon of cider for her mom to bring back as a thank-you for letting us borrow the car.

Upon arriving back at the hotel room, we devoured the doughnuts. So delicious. We planned on saving half of them for later. Instead, we ate 5 apiece, leaving only 2 for later. No regrets. Best doughnuts ever.

We made some plans for the rest of the day after that, then relaxed some as we watched Rick Steves’ Portugal on TV. We’re not big fans of the southern Europe episodes, but it sure beat the pants off of whatever else was on TV during the late morning. We got dressed in our finest after that, then headed out once more at about quarter after 11. After a brief stop off at the CVS to get Becky some panty hose (there was a chill in the air that’s not exactly common in Atlanta in October), we pressed on up US-7/US-20 into downtown Pittsfield:

Local distance: 2.9 miles

The Berkshire Museum isn’t the biggest nor the most ornate one in the world, but it’s surprisingly good for being so far away from any major cities. Plus, it is awfully pretty when the sun hits it the right way:

I don’t think it was open then – not that we’d have had time to tour it, anyway – but Becky did find a friend out front:

Since it’s rare for us to be able to get pictures together when we’re all nice and dressed up, we took the occasion to get one of us with our new stegosaurus friend:

He said that he likes plants. We thanked him for his time, then moved on.

We still had some time to kill before we needed to be at the wedding, so we made one more stop at an old haunt for me, this one a bit up the road, to the northeast:

Total local distance: 6.9 miles

There’s very little special about the Allendale Shopping Center, aside from a remarkable kinetic sculpture that ran on golf balls, moving all about the place, hitting colorful levers and making all manner of sound. Much like the cider press at Bartlett’s, I spent endless time as a child watching it and marveling at its Rube Goldberg-esque action. The last time we were in Pittsfield, it was still there, but not functioning. We thought, years later, we’d give it another shot:

Not only was there a “yoga Zumba” place next door now, but the sculpture had been completely removed! Drats! Since I’d mourned the loss of the Dakota, Becky had to stand in for me for this one:

I really wish she could have seen it in action, but I suppose nothing lasts forever, even if it wasn’t yet November and it was certainly not raining. It was a little chilly, though.

By that point it was noon, and so we felt confident we wouldn’t be too egregiously early if we went over to the hotel for the wedding. So, we did just that:

Total local distance: 10.3 miles

The ceremony would be held throughout the day at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, or, what I (and certainly present Pittsfield residents) would still call the Hilton, because that’s what it was when I lived there. We could have stayed there for convenience sake for the wedding, but it was crazy expensive, and plus we valued our sleep. A third mitigating factor I didn’t even know about was the parking garage: we managed to squeeze into it through 6-foot ceilings to find a space, but it was clearly under construction, and looked about as sound as if it had been made with Tinker Toys. We made a note to park on the street when we’d return for the reception in the evening.

We entered the lobby to join several dozen beautifully-dressed Brown People and a small handful of confused-looking White People. It wasn’t entirely clear what, if anything, we were supposed to be doing, but after several minutes, a number of folks started walking outside to the enclosed promenade flanking the hotel. A drummer fired up his dhol, and as the beat reverberated through the walkway, it was clear that the festivities had begun:

As we made our way along, several Indian folks made it to the front of the procession to dance in a little circle near the drummer. Gaurav’s older relatives offered the standard, Westerner-confusing blessing of cashed-waved-over-the-head for this:

Every minute or so, we’d walk another 20 or 30 feet, then stop as Gary’s father or one of his uncles would make a brief speech:

As you can see in the background, this was about the most interesting thing the local Pittsfield townies had seen in about forever. They gawked with all the subtlety of a metaphorical elephant in the room.

Speaking of elephants, tradition has it that the groom is to arrive on one. Elephants are a bit hard to come by in western New England, and so Gaurav’s ersatz-elephant was instead a red convertible, bedecked with flowers and garlands:

He sat there at first, as the procession made its way around the cul-de-sac in front of the hotel, again stopping so family patriarchs could proclaim short vignettes:

Now, believe it or not, neither Becky nor I speak Hindi. Hell, for all I know, they were speaking a different language altogether and we’re just dumb white folks for assuming it was Hindi. Point is, all we heard was a series of 15-30 second-long speeches, inevitably punctuated with a roar of cheering from the Indians in the procession. In lieu of understanding what was being said, I assumed they were all telling Yo Mamma jokes. That seemed to make it make a lot more sense from that point forward.

After much dancing, cheering, and banging on the drum – all of which was wonderful, by the way, even if we couldn’t get a word of what was said – the procession made the circle around the cul-de-sac, back to the entrance to the hotel lobby:

It was at that point that the attention of the procession moved away from the family patriarchs and to Gaurav, who seemed to be implored first to dance himself:

…then, after a blessing and some encouragement from his father:

…he made his way out of his Mighty Chariot, and toward the entrance to the lobby:

He danced once more for the procession (I got the feeling that his first effort, above, was deemed insufficient, which I have to agree with… more dancing was clearly warranted), then he headed into the lobby, and upstairs with his brother, toward where the ceremony would be held:

All of this was fantastic, and very much the highlight of the occasion for us. Good, since the ceremony that followed was more all about the reverence and austere sanctification. Like ya do in wedding ceremonies, I suppose. But, unlike in Christian weddings, at least the stage they would sit on was all hell of ornate:

There’s no big, Baroque-march-blaring pipe organ entrance in Indian weddings to signify the start of the ceremony, and so folks just sort of wandered in ad libitum, alternately taking seats or milling about. This gave me plenty of time to appreciate their lovely wedding programs/Guide for the Melanin-Impaired:

Eventually, a sort of consensus was reached that the ceremony was starting. Which is to say, most of the adults paid attention, and children were, for the most part, herded into a corner table supplied with scrap paper and crayons. This is, I’ve heard, more or less typical for Indian wedding ceremonies. If anything, most of the audience was keeping the chatter down to a minimum. White folks always gotta like things to be quiet.

There were several distinct facets to the ceremony. The first was an exchange of garlands between complimentary members of each family:

This was easy in the case of say, the mothers:

But, since Vanessa doesn’t have a brother to match Gaurav’s, Chris stood in as an honorary-sibling:

When all of the garlands were exchanged, Vanessa and Gary entered the room to take a seat on the stage:

You’ll note that Vanessa is wearing a different, even-more-beautifully-ornate dress from the one she had on the previous evening. She’d change into yet a third one for the reception. This alone is more effort than I think Becky and I would have put into a wedding, so she’s to be applauded for that.

For the next part of the ceremony, a small fire was lit in the put, into which the couple spooned some symbolic offerings:

Again, if you’re going to have an hour-long wedding ceremony in a foreign language, your best course of action is to light something on fire. So well done, there.

For the next bit, the officiant went through a big series of scripture, as the bride and groom did a wonderful job of looking reverent:

This was followed by each leading the other in a circle:

…around the fire pit, several times:

My Western sensibilities told me the next part, in which the bride and groom donned ornate flower garlands on one another, was the “okay now you’re married for reals” part of the ceremony:

But it kept going for a bit more after that:

It couldn’t go on much longer, though, since the furtive glances Gaurav was occasionally shooting meant it was approaching the end:

Sure enough, shortly after that, the bride and groom raised to receive blessings from their parents:

…and then they were married! Hooray!

We all got some flowers to toss at them after that, then more or less everyone lined (okay, less “lined” more “mobbed.” Again, I think orderly queues are White People Things) up to be photographed with them. We’d have plenty of time to congratulate them later, and so I just snapped this quick one of the newly-married couple with Deb and Randy before moving on:

We chatted some with Chris and his family afterward, as well as with Jon Cohen, who apparently was also at the wedding, though couldn’t make the party the previous evening. It had been even longer since I’d seen him, and so I was happy to catch up with him for a bit, too. Becky and I were getting pretty hungry, though, and so after offering if anyone wanted to join us (they all had separate plans, but it’s not like we wouldn’t be seeing them in several more hours), we departed at around quarter after 2 to go get some lunch.

Fortunately for us, the place we’d be getting food was just a hop, skip, and a jump down the road, off East Street:

Total local distance: 11 miles

We’d stopped in at Teddy’s Pizza, home of roughly four out of five meals I had during my 3-semester tenure at Pittsfield High School. Chris had warned me that the place had changed after Teddy retired, but I had to check it out anyway, if only for closure:

Sure enough, it just wasn’t the same. The kitchen alcove had been replaced with a bar, and the wood paneling had been removed to expose the brick. The sitting Joust machine had been replaced with high-def TVs broadcasting ESPN. The pizza was still roughly as I remembered it, or at least close enough. Still, a bit of the magic was gone. Fortunately, Becky had been to Teddy’s with me during a visit years earlier, before the remodeling, when Teddy was still working. So at least she was able to experience that bit of my young teenage years before it was gone. And hell, pizza is still pizza, and it hit the spot right then.

We decided to drive around some after that, through the southwestern quadrant of town with which I was most familiar, growing up. We made our way down East Street, turned on Dalton Division Road, then drove past my old house on Caratina Ave. It had been repainted, and the excellent sledding hill in back had been rudely cut off by a fence. In other words, another change that would never quite be the same. Still, some things were still as I remembered them. We pulled over to stop at one:

Total local distance: 18 miles

Ah, good old Williams Elementary School, where I went to primary school from 2nd – 5th grade:

That front building there had been renovated since my time, and I failed to find the plaque marking the tree planted in honor of my 5th grade teacher, who had died of a heart attack while shoveling snow in the middle of the ’92 – ’93 school year. But the important things were still the same: much of the playground equipment I’d risked life and limb on nearly a quarter-century earlier were still there, including the gloriously uncomplicated swing set:

Becky swung as high as she felt comfortable doing, stopping when one corner support started to lift out of the ground. I assured her that no, it’s always done that. Oh, Williams, don’t ever change.

I mentioned to Becky how Vanessa’s grandparents lived very close to Williams, but I couldn’t quite remember which house was theirs, only their furball of a cat that seemed to generate its own body weight in shedding daily. Odd what one remembers sometimes.

Memory Lane sufficiently trodden down, we drove back into town via Elm Street, where I’d often bike in the summer, then hooked back onto South Street to return to the hotel:

Total local distance: 23 miles

We returned to our room at about 3:15, then settled in to watch some TV. We watched a bit of the Cosby Show, and episode of Monk, then some of the Northwestern-Wisconsin football game (spoiler: NU lost) as we got ready to go again. I put on a fresh tie, fixed my hair, then we hit the road back to the Crowne Plaza at around 5 o’clock.

We first headed up to the pool for a cocktail hour. This was most excellent, and gave me the first real time I had to catch up with both Chris and Jon at the same time. You know I must have been having a good time then, because I neglected to take any photos. Still, indoor pool. Scotch. Hors d’oeuvres. You get the idea.

At 6:30, we were all encouraged to head over to the reception hall:


First things first, I found the bar in there, just in case we had to wait a bit to be served:

We were seated with Jon, and a couple of Vanessa’s friends from Penn State:

Though I’d end up spending a good amount of the evening talking with Jon and Chris, the folks from Penn State were also cool to chat with, and I’m glad Vanessa sat us with them.

The reception was kicked off with a Western-style wedding ceremony, including the obligatory walking-down-the-aisle of the bride by her father:

It was held up on the dance floor, in front, and was officiated by one of her good friends:

What he may have lacked in terms of experience as an officiant he more than made up for with brevity, and, for the second time that day, Gary and Vanessa were pronounced husband and wife:

Hooray again!

The reception got going after that, during which time we were provided a lovely buffet of Indian food. Vanessa later told me some of her family was confused by it, but I elected to make up for them by eating ALL the Indian food:

Indian food is good.

Of course, a wedding reception would not be a wedding reception without a First Dance:

And so the night went on, chatting with the ladies from Penn State some, having drinks and exchanging stories both old and new with Chris and Jon some more. All the food and drink made me feel like dancing would have been a bad idea, but Becky still gave it her best toward the end of the evening. All in all, we had a wonderful time.

We departed at about 10 minutes of 11, then hit the road down South Street, back to Lenox and to our hotel room for the night:

Local distance: 3.0 miles

We got out of the fancy clothes we’d had on for the past 12 hours, then bedded down to read some before turning off the light. Though we’d be checking out the following morning, we still had some fun left in store the following day before we’d make the drive back to the eastern end of the state. Still, for the second year in a row, we’d gone to a wedding in Massachusetts for some old friends, and had a positively excellent experience in doing so. And I’m really, really happy about that.

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