Into the Season of Fire

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Monday, October 21 – it was the first genuinely chilly morning of the fall season, in which the temperature flirted with freezing and a light frost coated some rooftops as I walked Giles before heading into work. As always, I greeted the cool not with mourning, but with relief that the long summer had finally come to an end.

When I arrived at work, I imported the EEG data Glenda had given me onto my computer, then I got on the 8:40 shuttle over to Woodruff to meet with her and to start a rat propofol infusion experiment. Despite the pulse-oximeter acting up, this one went well, overall, emerging to become ambulatory just a bit after I left to take the 11:25 shuttle back to the VA. So not a bad way to start the work week.

After taking a break to eat my lunch, I got going on processing data from Britany for our upcoming manuscript. Unfortunately, it turned out that, once we eliminated animals for whom the anesthesia protocol was not carried out properly based on her telemetry data, we simply didn’t have enough to publish. I’d need to do more studies on my own to shore up the numbers. That’d be a problem for later-Jon, though. For right then, I reserved a rental car for my trip out to San Diego and Los Angeles coming up in just a couple of weeks from then, then I got a call from a census lady. Her questions were fairly interminable, and so I had to cut her off after a while so I could make a meeting with Paul. I checked on my rats after that, looked into getting a MATLAB license for our lab’s use, then left to meet Becky down in the lobby (she’d gotten out earlier than usual) at a bit after 4 in the afternoon.

After a 38-minute workout at the gym, we returned home to settle in for the evening. Becky started work on digging a fire pit out in the back yard for our up-coming Halloween party while I made us some cheesy apple pork chops for dinner. We ate while watching a nature show about cheetahs, then I took advantage of the cool weather to set our very first fire in our wood-burning stove. As I did that, Becky made up some ghostly decorations for the party:



It kind of looks like what would happen if Jack Skellington was an anime character.

As the fire warmed the living room, we watched some of Journey to 10,000 BC, a somewhat-out-of-date but still entertaining show about the exploration of the Americas by early humans. We followed that with Jeopardy!, then another installation of Georgia’s Civil War. The amount of stuff that went on post-Sherman (which I’d believed to be “none,” damned Yankee I am) was pretty interesting.

We wound down the evening with a Doctor Who from Netflix, then we put on some Futurama in bed before turning off the light for the night.

Tuesday, October 22 – upon arriving at work for the day, I read for a bit while having my morning coffee, then I rode the shuttle over to Emory’s main campus. The rat propofol experiment with Glenda went quite well that morning, finishing early enough for me to hop the Yerkes shuttle, then walk through Lullwater back to the VA by about 11:15. I must have just missed Becky, who came out during lunch time to commune with the picturesque trees:



I read a good deal in the afternoon, but I managed to also make use of myself by weaning a cage of pups. I wrote out and posted a journal entry, too – the last one I’d manage to get put out in nearly 3 months. I stalled out on the day before July 4th (so, July 3rd), and in the two months since I’ve covered nearly 4 months of ground to get to here. Not bad, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

And so the next several months will progress without the phrase “wrote a journal entry,” that seems to stud these posts without much inward reflection. For then, I departed work to meet Becky at Yerkes, then I went to the gym with her for a standard afternoon workout.

Back home, I lined the nice, new fire pit Becky dug with some extra bricks from the back yard, then I made us some more cheesy apple pork chops for dinner. We ate while watching the Daily Show and Colbert, followed by the premiere of @midnight, the improv comedy ostensible-game show hosted by Chris Hardwick. It was pretty funny, and so we were happy when it wound up getting picked up for more episodes later on.

After we watched Jeopardy!, I called my Uncle Mike to confirm my visit with him and Nancy before I went out to San Diego for the conference. That seemed to be all set, and so I settled back down with Becky to watch the 10-year anniversary show for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. It was lots of fun, and, while I didn’t really watch the show during its original run (perhaps I should have), it was like catching up with old friends for Becky. We retired to bed for the night when it concluded, content that the spirit and positive message of the show lives on, even if I do wear jeans and plaid shirts too often.

Wednesday, October 23 – the work day started much as it had the previous two days, in that I grabbed my coffee while checking my email and some overnight blogs, then I walked out front to catch the shuttle from the VA out to Woodruff, so as to start a rat propofol infusion experiment in Glenda’s lab. I was quite happy for the morning to continue as a carbon-copy of the previous day, as it meant the experiment went off without difficulties, and the rat emerged as planned for EEG recording. Hooray, 3 for 3!

I took the C-shuttle back to Starvine (the Yerkes shuttle is faster, but I always get carsick when I ride it, so I needed a break from it), then I walked back the rest of the way to the VA, enjoying the crisp fall air in the process.

While I was eating my lunch, Becky was out in Lullwater looking for bugs on her own break:



Nope, no bugs here, just a leaf minding its own business.

I started off the afternoon by submitting a load of animal orders for Vinny’s upcoming work, then I read for a while, processed a monthly gas cylinder rental, and ordered us some fresh medical oxygen tanks for my own studies coming up not-too-far down the line. With all that done, I headed out at 4:15, then waited at Yerkes for Becky. She got held back at work for a bit, and so we elected to skip the gym, and instead headed straight home.

I tested out our fire pit with a small fire as Becky walked Giles. It seemed to work perfectly well, and so we’d be in business for the party that weekend. With that taken care of, we sat down to have some crock pot burritos for dinner as we watched the Daily Show. I made us a fire in the fireplace, then we put on Colbert, @midnight, and a neat nature show about sharks that live in the waters around Easter Island. We followed that with Jeopardy!, then a Doctor Who before relaxing and reading for the rest of the evening.

Not a very exciting start to the week, and I know it doesn’t seem worthy of its own post, but the following two days are worth mentioning on their own. They were going to be awesome.

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Pies and Plays

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Saturday, October 19 – we awoke at about quarter of 9, then I got up to shower, make some coffee, and do the dishes as Becky gave Giles his morning time in the park. I took down my shower liner and threw it in the laundry after that (worth noting as it needs washing again as of writing this), then I ran a backup on Becky’s computer as I swept up and vacuumed. I continued my furor of chores after that by bleaching and scrubbing the bathroom, then I got my now-cleaned shower liner hung back up to complete the nice, sparking bathroom. There: chores done. I read some after that until the backup on Becky’s computer was finished running, then I ate my leftover sandwich from the previous day for lunch.

I watched the Mythbusters zombie special, then folded my laundry, before going to work on my sound sword for my Halloween costume. It was coming out fairly well after I cut off the top with a Dremel, so as to model it after Lemongrab’s.

I took a rest and read some in bed after that, then I went out to the gym with Becky for a 38-minute workout. After returning home to get cleaned up, we went out for dinner at the Thinking Man Tavern (a good choice we don’t get to often enough), then we went down to Kirkwood for Piefest, Kurt’s annual celebration of all things pie:



The pies were out front, actually, on his porch flanked by some lovely plants with huge leaves, but that Esso sign was so awesome that we just had to get a picture of it. Well, two pictures:



We had a lovely, pie-filled time. Most of the pies were sweet, but some were savory. We don’t get to hang out with Kurt enough, but Tracy was also there, so we didn’t feel like we were imposing. We had some drinks and some pie, then retreated to the fire pit out back, where we were regaled with stories from some of Kurt’s friends, including some middle-aged gay men from Louisiana. One, in particular, had the absolute best stories of just about everything (as you might imagine), on top of a voice we could have listened to read the phone book. We felt rather mundane by comparison, but it was nice to meet new people, something we don’t do often enough these days, thanks to being lucky enough to have friends here that make it easy to feel comfortable. Still, we need to branch out some, and we were really glad we went out to Kurt’s place that night. Plus, we took some pie home with us. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

We got back home at about 10:30, then put on a United States of Tara to wind down the evening. When that finished, we went to bed for the night.

Sunday, October 20 – I awoke at around 8 in the morning, then made myself some coffee so as to perk up before Becky and I went out to get groceries. I went to Home Depot when we returned, whereupon I bought six packages of firewood. It looked like it was going to be a cold winter (spoiler alert: it was!) and so I would eventually need to purchase wood by the cord, but that trunk-load would do for the mid-autumn, at least.

We went to the gym for a brief workout after that, then I had some of the savory pie we’d taken home from Kurt’s for my lunch. We watched a Nature about rescuing otters off the Pacific coast as we ate (otters are only made more cute by putting bandages on them), then I got up to call my parents to check in. After I talked with my dad for a while, I watched Rick Steves’ Northern Ireland with Becky off of the DVR. Belfast looks like a very interesting place, another in the “cities that were totally unsafe for American tourists when I was a child but are generally okay now.” I love places like that because they make me feel like humanity isn’t fucking up as badly as I often suspect we are.

By the time that concluded, it was 1:25, and so we drove up Clairmont to Oglethorpe and to the Georgia Shakespeare for a matinee show. Thanks to heavier-than-anticipated traffic on a Sunday afternoon, we wound up just barely making it in time: I had to drop Becky off to get tickets as I parked, then I sprinted the hundred yards from the parking spot down to the theater. Still, we made it, if only just:



We were there to see their production of Hamlet. There was a good deal of symbolism employed by the movement of the two full-length mirrors to the rear of the stage, there, but the exact nature of it escapes me, what with my lack of expertise in theatre and all. It seemed like a fairly good production, and I at least enjoyed the interpretation of Polonius as a self-righteous windbag full of meaningless platitudes (full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?). I know it’s not the most popular interpretation of the character, but I do enjoy how it would mean that in having Polonius point a self-assured finger in the air as he quips, “to thine own self be true,” he’s making fun of those who find deep meaning in blithering platitudes like “to thine own self be true.” It’s as if Shakespeare knew Pinterest was going to happen!

We enjoyed the performance very much, and we were glad we’d gotten a chance to see it, even if we had to do so on a Sunday matinee show. When we departed, we headed straight from there to the thrift store, where I was able to get some clothing to go with my Halloween costume (Becky had made the head and I had the sword, but I still needed an outfit). That done, we popped in at the Corner Pub in East Decatur for some dinner (the place is hit-or-miss in terms of the crowd there, but I think we’re figuring out that it’s best to sit close to the bar if one doesn’t want to get dragooned into babysitting the toddlers seated at nearby tables), then we picked up some Blizzards from Dairy Queen on the way home. Not a bad Sunday afternoon and evening, I’d say.

We put on some of a show about the Running of the Bulls in Spain (we didn’t record it, so we just caught the latter part of it on TV, but that was enough), then we powered through the final two episodes of the United States of Tara from Netflix. With that series under our belt, we put on a show I’d recorded on the DVR called Breaking Magic. It actually featured reveals of how magic tricks are done, which made it better than the previous ostensible-magic-reveal show we’d recorded. So well done there. When we’d finished an episode of that, we watched the new China, IL from the previous Sunday, then we retired to bed for the night.

Not a high-key weekend, but still a good one, overall. Don’t worry: with Halloween fast approaching, there would be plenty of crazy fun times coming up.

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Raging Mediocrity

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Wednesday, October 16 – it was a relatively quiet start to my abbreviated work week, as I caught up with my email backlog while having coffee, then read for a good deal to catch up on some blogs. Feedly went down for maintenance as I was doing that, though, and so I instead tried to make myself useful by collecting some data from Sarah’s notebooks into one Excel spreadsheet. After a break for lunch, I read and entered some more data, then wrote out and posted an entry for the day. With that done, I left at about 4:10 to drive up to Yerkes to meet with Becky, then we went out to the gym before returning home to eat dinner.

As I made us some spaghetti, Becky was out back with Giles, where she discovered a rare growth in the yard:



“Mama mia! That’s a big-a mush-a-room!”



If Mario’s happy, we’re happy.

We ate while watching the Daily Show and Colbert, followed by some of a nature show about predators. Well, at least I think it was a nature show. In my notes, all I said was “show about predators,” so it could have been sexual predators. I doubt it, though. At any rate, when that ended, we watched Jeopardy!, followed by – first – the new Adventure Time from the previous week, then the new one from earlier that week. We relaxed for a while after that, and eventually made our way to bed for the night.

Thursday, October 17 – I arrived at work on time, then grabbed my morning coffee to have while I read my overnight Internets. I made up an order form for another pregnant rat after that, emailed Glenda to check in, then read some more while entering some more notebook-bound data until it was time for lunch. I wrote out and posted an entry after that (the second-to-last one I’d get out before a 3-month dry spell), then I spent the rest of the afternoon continuing to read and collect more data into Excel. I left a bit early to meet Becky at Yerkes, as I’d done the previous day, then we went out to the gym for an abbreviated workout.

We had some more spaghetti for dinner at home, made with some leftover macaroni shells (we were really scraping the bottom of the barrel, so as to avoid a mid-week trip to the grocery store). We ate that while watching a show called Dead or Alive, a new one that was sort of like I Shouldn’t Be Alive and did not, contrary to the name, feature Pete Burns. Though one would imagine that the kids who were attacked by bears in the episode we watched did, in fact, have to undergo a lot of reconstructive surgery. So maybe that’s the connection.

We left home at about 7 PM, so as to go to a rare Thursday Trivia Night at Raging Burrito:



It wasn’t pouring down the rain this time, but it was rather chilly, and so our team elected to sit inside. I keep having high hopes for Raging as a Trivia spot because it has a great menu both for food and beer, but a) the dude who runs it takes forever, more than negating the advantage we gain from it being only 10 minutes away from our house, and b) we seem to have terrible luck there. This time we were convinced we didn’t know the answer to the final question, and so we wagered 0 points on it and made a blind guess… which turned out to be correct. Ugh. We can’t win for losing there. We salvaged third place, though, and at least we weren’t attacked by giant, robotic mosquitoes:



We made it back home at 10:20 (see? I told you dude takes forever), then played with Giles some before making our way to bed. It was a short week for us, but we still had to see it out to the end.

Friday, October 18 – despite the later-than-we-would-have-liked night the previous evening, we still got up and into work as usual. I read a bit over coffee, then started entering more data from notebooks, this time from Britany’s studies. I took a break from that to help the people in a lab across the floor from us to set up their isoflurane induction rig, then I got back to entering the data. At about 11 o’clock I ran out to my car to check to see if I’d left my lunch there, as I didn’t bring it to the lab with me. Nope: I forgot it. Again, I blame the verbose trivia guy for this; by depriving me of much-needed sleep that resulted in leaving my lunch at home.

I got some pizza from the cafeteria instead, then I read a bit more, then met with Paul to discuss all of the data I’d harvested from our notebooks so far. I left the VA after that, taking the 1:40 shuttle over to Glenda’s lab to pick up some of the EEG data we’d gathered thus far. She met me down in the lobby of her building, and so I was able to turn around quickly, then take the C-shuttle back to Starvine, from where I walked back to the VA, as it was turning out to be a pleasant afternoon, weather-wise. I read some more back in the lab upon my return, then headed out to meet Becky and to do a rare Friday trip to the gym, to make up for how fat and sassy we’d gotten on our trip up to New England.

After getting cleaned up at home, I went back out to get us some Fellini’s for dinner. We ate while watching Infested, a show all about home invasions by pests. This one was on skunks, bedbugs, and rats. So maybe not the best meal-time viewing. Oh well. We followed it with the second half of an extinction show we caught on TV but neglected to record, called Last Days of Man. Maybe we’ll catch a re-run of it sometime. For then, though, we put on Jeopardy!, followed by Pixar’s Toy Story of Terror!, which had just premiered earlier in the week. It was quite enjoyable, and we were big fans of Stephen Tobolowsky being cast as the shady hotel manager.

We played some Boom Blox on the Wii for a while after that, as it was pretty clear that we weren’t all that up to going out that night. We watched a Dead or Alive after that, this one on shark attacks. When that ended, we retired to bed for the night to read some before putting on a spot of Futurama to help us get to sleep. The weekend coming up wouldn’t be a very high-key one, but we had tons of stuff planned not too long after that.

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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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