Thursday, July 14, 2005

No Headstone on my Grave

So, I made it to Shore Leave after all! I found I was able to make a very abbreviated trip down, a single overnight with no hotel reservation, mostly a quick trip down the road to have a few pints with some friends. Just throw a sleeping bag and an overnight bag in the car, grab some beer money and hit the road south. I had a great time, very low-key and relaxing but an opportunity to get together with friends I usually only get to see at the Hunt Valley Inn each July now.

I had to wait until Friday afternoon last weekend to make the final call, so we could find out The Momma's work schedule for the weekend. Once that was settled and I realized I could go it was a question of driving down Friday during the overnight hours, or leaving very early on Saturday morning. I quickly realized I was pretty tired and not up to a 7-hour drive that night, so I determined to do my best to get to bed early so I could be up and on the road by 6am.

Well, going to bed "early" is tough for me in any situation. I work an evening shift, usually getting home after midnight or even 1am, so most nights I don't go to bed until 3am or even later. But after the Sox game Friday night I went to bed, around 11pm, and much to my pleasant surprise I was asleep by 11:30.

And awake by 12:30am... an hour later. At 2am I was still lying in bed awake, and, though tired, not feeling like I was going to get back to sleep. Sigh... I got up, threw my stuff in the car and hit the road a little after 2:30.

While exhausted, I've always enjoyed driving and I tend to do pretty well with long trips... I thought I'd push to get at least as far as New Jersey and then catch a nap in a rest area if possible. I actually drove straight through, and at 8am I was pulling into a rest area in Maryland less than 45 minutes from the Hunt Valley. I realized it was too early even for me to go to the hotel bar, and that my friends would all still be sleeping, so after grabbing a bite to eat I tried to nap in the car for a few hours. This was largely unsuccessful, especially now that it was daylight and getting hotter by the minute, but I was able to doze a bit and at the least got a few hours of downtime. I hit the road again around 11:30am for the last push.

The toughest part was, realizing I was doing this trip on the cheap I wanted to eat something at a fast food joint before getting to the hotel so I wouldn't have to pay hotel prices on lunch, I got off the highway at noon and had to drive past the hotel entrance to go to McDonald's down the road. But I managed it, crammed a few greasy burgers down and by 12:30pm I was walking into my beloved Paddock Bar. Success!

I ran into my friend Anne right away, who was shocked to see me as word had apparently spread that I wasn't coming this year. (I guess some folks do read this space!!) She asked if I had a place to crash yet and offered me a bed in the room with her and her husband Rick... Thank you, that was very much appreciated! And a load off my mind in my now over-tired but excited state. After getting me a room key she took me up to say hi to Rick, who was also happily surprised. Along the way I saw The Little Guy and wife The Maggie and said a happy hello to them... ah yes, this place is home the second weekend in July every year as it has been since 1980!

As the afternoon went on I met up with others one by one, each more fun to surprise. Kevin found me in the bar soon enough (he'd been looking for me in my "office" Friday night as well!), and I also found Hypersue and John M, and Joan & Rebecca and kids in my wanderings around the hotel. After picking up my membership I was coming back up the escalator when Bon Bon, going down the other side, saw me... she was yelling at me about what a sneak I was and I couldn't tell if she was delighted or angry at seeing me! (She was happy.)

I'd seen about everyone except for Towaway, and I'd been hanging in the bar for a while (watching the Sox game, as they were in town playing the Orioles) without seeing him. Thursday night he'd called me at work, when he first got to the hotel, for the traditional "ribbing" call that he was there and I wasn't going this year. He gave me the cellphone number of a friend that was with him as I told him I'd probably call over the weekend; I called that number and left a voicemail saying I was in a bar watching the Sox play the O's and I was thinking of him down there, and as I imagined they had it on at the hotel bar he should go give me a call from the bar so we could say hello while the game was on.

About 20 minutes later I'm sitting at the bar and hear him roar, "You son of a bitch!" (Naw, when Towaway says it it's a term of endearment!) The look on his face was itself justification for the whole drive... not that I'd minded it anyway!

I also had a great time watching the ballgame Saturday with a new local friend. Bruce was from the Baltimore area but it was his first Shore Leave, and as he digs baseball, SF and beer we got along great and passed a few fun hours together through the afternoon and evening.

Don't ask me how, but I made it to 1am before finally going to sleep despite my one hour of sleep the night before. That's probably the earliest I've ever gone to bed on a Saturday night at Shore Leave (and Towaway let me hear about it the next day!), but I was pretty content under the circumstances! I slept until noon on Sunday, thanks to Rick and Anne getting a late check-out.

After getting myself together I was back in the bar at 1:30pm Sunday for the last Sox game (we lost both the Saturday and Sunday games, alas, but the company and the location were great so I didn't mind that much). During the game I had lunch and said goodbyes to folks as they rotated through... I'd originally hoped to stay through the end of the con Sunday but that would make it at least 7pm, and I figured I'd get tired early again so instead I left right after the ballgame ended. By 4pm I was on the road, and despite some nasty traffic through Jersey and New York I was home by midnight.

Though much shortened it was a very enjoyable get-away, and well worth the effort. I can thank The Momma for putting up with me going (a belated birthday present to me, she said, and ironically her birthday was that weekend as well!). Also many many thanks to Rick and Anne for the bed, and to Bon Bon for treating me to a great dinner Saturday evening at Padonia Station, a restaurant we both really love down there.

I understand I missed some of the real excitement of the con, as they had a tornado warning on Thursday night and actually moved all guests from their rooms into the basement ballrooms as a funnel cloud may have been spotted in the area; and the art show room was flooded; and they had a last-minute scheduling problem with their main media guest. But as always happens everything worked out and most everyone had a good time... and I haven't attended much in the way of programming there in quite a few years anyway!

I heard rumors there of Shore Leave as a possible site next year for a 20th reunion for the USS Christa McAuliffe, our local SF fan group, and that'd be a great place for it if enough folks could go. Certainly I'll be looking to drink a few more brews in the Paddock about 51 weeks from now... Kungaloosh, and Hail the Tiki!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Happy Birthday, America!

We had a very enjoyable holiday weekend. Independence Day has become "our" holiday to host for my extended family, with my folks and siblings getting together for a late afternoon cookout at our place. We rent a fairly small but serviceable single-family house, and though small it's got a very nice, big yard in a great location.

Our gathering was followed by an evening trip for most of us to see the Natick fireworks, conveniently launched from the shopping mall right across the street from my office building (about 25 minutes from home) so we get a nice semi-private viewing party there with other folks from my work. C & I have been watching the fireworks here for many years, and it's been fun to bring along the whole family and a few friends in more recent years. They put on a great show there, and it's quite a shame that I've heard this is the last year they'll be able to stage them there (rumored to be due to construction changes at the mall). Next year we'll likely try the "local" fireworks in Milford, the next town over from us; our friends Elliriel, Taz and family went there this year and Taz says it was quite good.

On the Fourth itself we relaxed. C, The Momma & I went out to dinner in the late afternoon, then watched the Boston Pops concert that evening. And such an awesome fireworks display in Boston again this year!

One thing The Momma and I realized yesterday. We are not Bush people. (No, we knew that before yesterday, but I'm going somewhere with this!) We've never liked him as a president, and don't like most of his policies. We don't really approve of the direction the country is moving in under this administration. But we do love this country, and we know attitudes move in waves... we're not looking to move to Canada, for instance! But we realized yesterday that our grumblings may have had too much of an adverse affect on C, who hasn't heard us talking enough about all the positives of this country amidst our grumblings and so didn't see why we were still so excited about Independence Day. We'll be working to correct that, try our best to find a balance, as much as one can exist for any particular point of view.

Got the car back last week, magic alternator and all. The alternator seems fine, but while the car sat on the lot for over a week the emergency brake apparently rusted On... sigh. I wasn't happy, and they could clearly tell as they didn't even hint at charging me for pulling it back onto the lift and removing the wheels to bang it free. Even I can see it wasn't a related problem but I was in No Mood. Ah well, I'll be passing on using the e-brake as a parking brake from now on I think! At least I know it will stop me should I need it as an actual emergency brake!