Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Wet One (in More Ways Than One)

After about 20 minutes of constant, heavy (torrential) downpour, this (above) is what one of the intersections looked like. At this point, I took my shoes off and splashed through the streets.

Wet Willies (right) is a locally famous institution in Savannah on the Riverfront. I had a "Call A Cab" made with 190 proof liquor (!). It tasted like a cherry Slurpee :)

We met Tomeeko and Cherrie (left) while waiting in the one-hour long line to eat at Mrs. Wilkes (food shown below). It was a Wednesday afternoon!

You can see how wet Rachel and I are (below). And that was just the beginning!

Tuesday, July 13. Savannah, Georgia.
Amtrak Station, Savannah, Georgia. 10 p.m. Tired, exhausted. Ready for hotel room. "Burt" (taxi driver) walks up to us, "Need a taxi?" We tell him yes and tell him where we are going. He proceeds to then ask all other people coming off the train if they need a taxi. What? He's abandoning us! No, he's actually seeing if he can get a better fare. No luck apparently; he comes back to us after we have our luggage. Very friendly, perhaps overly friendly. Welcomes us to Savannah. Asks if it's our first time... Well, yes, it is. "Oh I do you a favor. I turn off the meter for you." Huh? Umm, okay, I'm a little scared. It's dark, it's a shady part of town (Amtrak stations usually are in this part of town), and he's turning off the meter...? I can feel Rachel's angst. It's like an invisible, silent passenger sitting between us. Angst. Um, Dexter, where are you? I think we're about to be slaughtered... Um, help? Driving along the streets in Savannah, dark, alone. I'm thinking, 'how can I protect us?' Oooou, I know. I can swing my backpack at his head; it has my computer in it, and it's really heavy. I haven't been able to use the stupid thing since Pittsburgh, so now it will be useful. It'll knock him out for sure. Found out later, Rachel was thinking along the same lines. Only she was thinking what she could use as a weapon... her pen, maybe?
Okay, enough drama. Burt was just an overly friendly guy trying to make a buck. He gave us a handwritten card ("ran out, so I just wrote the stuff down"). Wanted us to call him for a "tour". Yea, right. Dexter? Think I may have a "case" for you...
The Marshall House is located on one of the main streets in downtown Savannah. It's very quaint, both inside and out. AND it's a bed and breakfast. BUT, I didn't realize that. The guy at the desk tells us breakfast is from 7-10, so I ask, "for free?" Rachel makes fun of me. She is still making fun of me. Hey, I didn't know. Fourth floor, up the elevator. The room is so quaint. SMALL is a better word. But the bed, well, the bed was so HUGE, we could have fit an entire football team in between us. Okay, maybe not an entire team; that's just exaggerating. Just the quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger, please), and maybe a safety or two. (Polamalu. Please?) Sleep for the night. Text Jed the next morning. Where to go? Stay close to Bull Street. Historic Center. Forsythe Park. Riverfront. So, we're off. Down Bull Street, on every block is a park. The parks are dedicated to people who helped to build Savannah. In each park is a statue or a memorial to this person or that person. They are all very beautiful. Pictures? Yes, but on Rachel's camera -- no pluggie guy. Remember?
Lunch. Where should we go for lunch? One suggestion takes us in one direction, we start walking. Then, we hear another suggestion, have to turn around and go back. Mrs. Wilkes. Very long line. It's worth it. If you ever get to Savannah, I highly suggest you join Mrs. Wilkes for lunch. They're only open from 11-2, so get in line at about 10:45. Ever been to Buca di Beppo? TEN TIMES BETTER. Southern food. Sit at a table with a bunch of strangers. Make friends. Eat food. More food. Even more food. Who wants dessert? Huh? Dessert? Banana pudding (mmm, remember my last adventure with banana pudding?) and peach cobbler (still warm...).
Now that we are too stuffed to breathe, let's go for a walk. Ever been in Savannah? In the south, on the east coast? "Intermittent, severe thunderstorms" in the forecast. At one point, I thought I was going to die -- struck by lightning, right in front of me. It missed. But it really was right in front of me. Check my pants. Yea, still clean. That was close. Then, BAAAANNNNGGGG. BOOOOMMMMM. LOUD thunder. Really LOUD. Pants check again. Still okay. Follow that by torrential downpour. More lightning, more thunder, more rain. Forget trying to stay under cover. Let's just have fun in this mess.
We got soaking wet, through and through. I took my sneakers off. Why get them wet? I have never giggled so much in my (adult) life. Almost peed my pants. Time to go to the hotel for dry clothes. Down to the riverfront. Reminds me of being in New Hampshire in the summer (NH is not quite this hot or this humid), but you know, the shops along the riverfront. All so quaint, all the gift shops. All the opportunities to spend money. Let's go to Wet Willies. Our friend, Burt, recommended Wet Willies. Yes, he recommended "Call A Cab" (wonder why?) Um, wait! Oysters on the half shell! Raw! Where else can you get 'em? On the riverfront, on the oceanfront. Haven't had raw oysters (really want clams) in a long time. Mmmmm. Rachel hates 'em. But I gotta say, at least she tried 'em.
Back to the hotel. Hey, it's dinner snack time (yes, for free). They serve wine and cheese. Sure, I'll indulge. Two, please. Um, remember the Call A Cab? 190 proof... now the wine....
Savannah is a great city. I look forward to my next visit. :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

More in Washington, D.C.

This is part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.

Ok, so we've been in Florida for a couple of days now, and I still have to catch up with the rest of D.C. ... If you read, "The Reunion, Part II," you know that we stayed at my brother's house for an extra night; pushed everything back one night so that we could revisit D.C. Spend more time on the exhibits, the museums, the monuments. The people. But once again, I get ahead of myself.

I promised a few posts ago that I would give Arlington Cemetery its due. Wednesday, July 6: We walked to the cemetery the right way this time (we'd been going in a round about way, wasting lots of foot power). When you enter Arlington Cemetery (AC), the first thing you notice is the grave markers, as far as the eye can see. Up one hill, down the next. For a while, they are all the same size, then you get to the special ones -- officers, generals... more important people. You have to just stop for a minute, feel the presence. (At this point, I feel like I have to apologize for the lack of pictures. Most pictures were taken with Rachel's camera -- and she does not have her pluggie guy to put into the computer -- it's at home. If you remember, I discovered my camera was broken when I first arrived in Philadelphia, so I've been using my phone. Sometimes Rachel uses her phone, but it just so happens that for Arlington, all pictures are on Rachel's camera. Sorry. Look for a link soon to a Shutterfly account with all pictures. Soon, like, end of July? Maybe.)

Back to feel the presence. If you are very quiet, if you concentrate on listening (and not to the voices in your head), just close your eyes... you can hear them talking, feel the rumble underfoot, the soldiers marching. It's as hot here as it was in Vietnam; you can feel their sweat -- sweat with them. The markers have dates, and sometimes they are similar dates of death; like a few rows of soldiers who died in the same year -- 1864, for instance, was a popular year for death. On one side of the marker is the soldier; on the other, "His Wife, __________." Some have more than one wife, usually because wife #1 died earlier than he. Very few vehicles are in this reverent place, other than for maintenance and tour buses. We see one, we see some soldiers, we see some people.

We witness a 21-gun salute. Can you feel it? I had to stop and take a deep breath. I felt their pain for a minute. How can you put into words?... You see seven soldiers, dressed in the Dress Uniforms. They have guns. They stand in a line. Guns at their sides. Now guns up. Cock and load. Like mirrors of each other, not one movement without the others. Shoot. Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Guns down. Now guns up. Cock and load. Shoot. Guns down. Now guns up. Cock and load. Shoot. Three shots, seven soldiers. The music in the background. Now quiet again.

We move on. Try to find the Tomb of the Unknowns. Tombstones start to get bigger, fancier. We are headed in the right direction. Text my brother, where is it? Top of the hill, highest you can go. Great. Ok, now we start to see signs. This Way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers; This Way to JFK Gravesite. Sorry, Rachel, gotta go This Way first. There are signs as you come to really important gravesites: Respect. Quiet. And the people listen. They whisper. They don't throw coins into the water. Even children are quiet. Like they know. They just know. As you walk up the hill to JFK Gravesite, there is a plain marker, a surface marker. Can't make out the name; it's too far, people are held away by ropes. Who is it? There's another one. We think they are the brothers, Bobby and Ted. Rachel can read one of them, Yes, it's Robert. A moment of silence. Do you remember?

Up the stairs. It's very quiet. I feel like I should stop breathing for a minute, out of respect. There is an eternal flame. I want to kneel. I can see his face. There are only a few people (famous people) whose deaths really affected me: President Kennedy was one of them. John Lennon another. I remember where I was, what I was doing. I remember crying. I remember all of the people around me, crying. Sobbing. I feel a tear welling up right now. Jackie is right next to him. And there is another grave marker: "Girl" Nothing else, "Girl." President and Mrs. Kennedy had a stillborn daughter in 1956; I never knew that. Then I think -- where is John? His ashes, along with his wife's and sister-in-law's, were scattered from the Navy ship USS Briscoe off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. But Patrick, who was only two days old when he died, is there. This is a quiet time for me. I just listen, breathe, I can hear my heart beating. Rachel takes pictures. I can't.

On to the Tomb of the Unknowns. We stay to watch a Changing of the Guard. It's over 100 degrees, humid. They are in Dress Uniforms. It's hot. If they can do it, so can we. We stand, in extreme reverence, for more than ten minutes. That's how long it takes for the entire ceremony. They do it once every half hour.

There is a memorial to Robert E. Lee. Wasn't he the confederate general? Yup. But he was so much more. The house we enter is actually his house! They are renovating it right now, so you can't see too much. Did you know that Robert E. Lee married into George Washington's family? I didn't.

We leave D.C. at 6:30 p.m., get to New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. the following day. That post has already been written, "The 26 Hour Train," and then New Orleans follows. Then there's "The Reunion, Part II," so we're caught up; sort of. There's all the stuff about my brother and what he does, but did I mention that he's also an excellent tour guide???

Sunday, July 11. I'll start where I left off, "It takes about an hour to get from my brother's house in MD to D.C." It's so nice to have a car to go to the different sites instead of walking. He takes us to all the biggies -- Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Memorial. We went to the Vietnam Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. We went to a couple of museums: the Natural History Museum and the US History Museum. We also ventured into the National Archives and saw the actual Declaration of Independence!
We were driving from one place to the next when -- all of a sudden -- a police car (marked Secret Service) blocks the intersection. Ooooouweee -- another motorcade! Remember we saw one the first time we ventured into Georgetown. (Ooouuh, and BTW, we found out that one was the President cuz he had an ambulance accompanying him!) So the cop (SS) blocks the intersection, and Raymond says, "Go ahead, I'll open the sun roof, stand up, stick your head out, take a picture!" So I do. The SS police guy, well he doesn't look too happy. But it's a short motorcade; probably not the Prez cuz there's no ambulance. Aw, shucks.
We move on. Onto the White House! We get as close as possible, try to take a picture of a (really cute) SS cop, but he won't pose. Says he's not supposed to. Raymond is the one to ask him (he says it's "for the girls") so he says to Raymond, "If you wanted a picture with me, why didn't you just say so?" Ha Ha.
As we're walking around the park area surrounding the White House, we see a very unique-looking man. He is very dark with white dreds. Looks very Aborigines. Very striking. I ask him if I can take his picture. He allows me to, and then he tells me to look him up online. He says his name is Elijah the ___________ -- I forgot! I try to look him up, but I can't find him. He said "the Wanderer" or "the Conqueror" or something. I can't find him. But I did take a picture. Unfortunately, it's on Rachel's camera, and Rachel doesn't have the pluggy guy to put into the computer -- so pictures later, as I said, on Shutterfly.
That was about it for this trip. It's long, and I know most of you will be tired from reading all of it; I'm tired from writing it. I am so glad I hooked up with my brother. I am so glad he took us in for the night. I am so glad he agreed to be our tour guide.
Thank you for the experience, Ray. I love you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Reunion, Part II

26 hours, New Orleans to DC; pretty much uneventful.

I had been texting my brother, asking if it would be possible to pick us up for a quick shower as we had a 5-hour layover in DC. Raymond and his friend met us at Union Station, took us to his house. On the way, he mentions how it's too bad we don't have more time -- we could catch the baseball game (the Washington Nationals are playing the San Francisco Giants - go Giants!) or we could go on the boat, or we could tour the city. Just not being rushed, getting some rest, taking our time -- well, that's really starting to sound tempting to me. Really!

Before we'd even left NO, I had looked into leaving a day later, but the ticket agent told me there were no seats available on the next day. I told Rachel I'd try again. And now it was really sounding good. Especially since the weather in DC was at least 15-20 degrees cooler! I knew we'd be able to walk around and not "melt onto ourselves" as Rachel likes to say. I called Amtrak again as soon as we got to the house, and the agent said that for an extra $47 each, we could take the 9:55 a.m. train. Sure, it's worth it! Unanimous decision.

Refreshing shower, delicious lunch... I want to take a moment here to thank Cathy for the beautiful lunch spread: seafood salad, potato salad, pasta with white sauce ("from Pizza Hut," Cathy gives them a plug), and couscous; and their friend who BBQ'd some scrumptious kabobs with sausage and steak. It was all wonderful and deeply appreciated.

On the road -- It takes about an hour to get from my brother's house in MD to DC. He fills the entire hour with stories of people, people he's helping. Raymond and Cathy help people in crises. Raymond was at Ground Zero during the 9/11 crisis; he was at the Oklahoma City bombing; he was there after people were shot in Waco, TX; he was in New Orleans after Katrina struck. He has been many other places. He had a ministry whose main purpose was to help people deal with grief. he has written self-help books and has held classes. He has had schooling. He and Cathy have been involved with helping people for years. I always thought he was doing it to gain approval or recognition or money. I couldn't understand why he chose to estrange himself from mom and dad. I still don't get that part. But I do get him a little bit more. I think he has changed over the years. He has become more fun, funny and down to earth. I find that I actually like him.

Their stories: (Please note that the names have been changed in these stories)
Eleanor has been a friend of Cathy's for a long time. Eleanor had no children. Her husband passed years ago. They had made a conscious decision not to have children because of a disease her husband had that he did not want to pass on. Then Eleanor's mother became deathly ill. Raymond went to help support Eleanor. Eleanor's mother told Raymond that she did not want Eleanor in her house. A few days later, she died. Eleanor had no family left. Raymond stayed to help Eleanor take care of her mother's estate. As it turns out, Eleanor's mother was a hoarder. Raymond says he could open the door only enough to fit his person through it. There was a tunnelled route to the refrigerator, the toilet, and to a small chair right in front of the TV. It took four of those huge construction-size dumpsters to clean out the house. Cathy and one of their kids were there also, to help support Eleanor as she chose what to keep, what to give to charity, what to sell, what to throw away. They just sat on the lawn in front of the house. Just think how hard this must have been for Eleanor. She did not know that her mother was a hoarder, though she did suspect something was up as her mother never allowed her in the house. She would visit, and mom would meet her outside the door, always outside the door. Always made excuses about not going inside. (Hoarding is being investigated by mental health professionals. They believe it is a mental illness and are trying to determine the best way to treat it.)

Not long after her mother's death, Eleanor was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Now Eleanor needs full-time care. Cathy provides that care; Eleanor now lives with them.
Stan is a homeless man who lives in his car, just up the road from Raymond and Cathy's house. Stan was diagnosed with a mental illness years ago, and has been living out of his car for the past seven years. Stan is also a hoarder. This past Thanksgiving, Raymond invited Stan to their home for dinner. Many of their other dinner guests knew Stan, or new of Stan, but had never seen him cleaned up. They didn't know who he was. Raymond explained who he was, and explained that he would be helping Stan from now on (as much as Stan would allow), and suggested that they do the same. Stan goes to Raymond's house once a week for a shower and dinner. This has been happening since Thanksgiving. As I said earlier, Stan is also a hoarder, but lives in his car. Just recently, Stan has felt comfortable enough, and trusted Raymond enough, to allow him to help clean out his car. It took 12 hours. Slowly, it got done. In the process of cleaning out his car, Raymond discovered that Stan has money. Enough money in the bank to live comfortably in, perhaps, an apartment. You see, because of his illness, and his hoarding, Stan really doesn't pay much mind to money. He really doesn't need it as people buy him food and coffee; and he has shelter (his car). So he pays no attention to the SSI checks as they come in; he just puts them in the bank. Stan continues to go to Raymond's for a bath and dinner once a week. Raymond lays out clothes for him to wear and tries to help keep the car organized.

Joe has severe, progressive Parkinson's Disease. He was diagnosed years ago, and it has been progressing rapidly ever since. He has been on medication, but the medication made him into somewhat of a zombie. Off the medication, he could not function. He now has a brain implant that stimulates the nerves of the brain and helps control the Parkinson's. Joe's wife left him after 27 years of marriage. And yes, she left him after the diagnosis. She had apparently been having an affair for years. And yes, she had been having the affair during Joe's hardest times. She finally just told him, "I don't love you anymore" or some such nonsense. She conveniently left him after she found out that she had a $2 million inheritance, to which he is entitled NOTHING. (Obviously this is NOT California). Joe is now in a severe depression. He was in a profession which allowed him to purchase good disability insurance, so he is self sufficient. He has no financial worries. But this is a blow that is not easily overcome; Joe is in a state of severe depression along with his Parkinson's. Raymond is by his side day in and day out. In fact, Joe helps with Stan. Joe helps Raymond with many community service projects.

I know this post is different from the rest. The purpose of this post was not to be funny or tell about our adventures. I think the reason for it was to get it out there. To say that we should be grateful for what we have, no matter what that is. To say that the next time you see a homeless person, don't assume that person is an alcoholic, a drug addict, a bad person. To say that the next time you hear of someone who has Alzheimer's disease, don't be afraid. To say that the next time you hear of a person with Parkinson's disease, well, think of my brother, who was diagnosed with that same disease not too long ago. And finally, to say that when you take the time to listen, you learn things you never knew about someone.

I'm so happy I decided to listen.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Last Day and Night in the Big Easy

We stopped at Cafe du Monde for beignets (above); went to the Central Grocery Co. for mufuletta (below right), and finally at Pat O'Brien's for a hurricane.

DAYTIME: So Josh calls at 9 a.m. -- a.m.!! "Thought you said not to call before noon?" "Wake up if you want to see anything! This is New Orleans, darlin. You gonna miss it if you sleep!" Wake up Rach, let's go.
Really nice breakfast spread. Ok, so I was upset about the water (or lack thereof), but they fixed it, and they had a computer to borrow, and this beautiful breakfast spread. They even have CoffeeMate creamer in huge pump bottles -- two kinds! There were waffles -- make your own -- fruit, pastries, cake, rice mix with peppers and mushrooms, yogurt, jam, toast, bagels and cream cheese, cereal, juice, and of course, coffee. Two kinds of coffee, plus decaf! Amazing. Lots of time and effort, along with thoughtfulness went into this spread. We spent some time eating and relaxing -- in our jammies -- before we got ready to spend our last day and night in New Orleans.
We're pros at the trolley thing now, so after we freshen up, we go downstairs to get on it. Marco gives us money. Wait, let me repeat that: Marco gives us money. We didn't give him dollars for change. Nope. He just gave us quarters for the trolley. Enough for a round trip each. Wow. I'm really liking this place. Remember that -- and seriously -- Thank You, Jennifer. Parkview Guest House. Great place to stay (especially if you don't have thick hair).
We get on the trolley, make the trek to Canal Street. First stop: Harley Davidson. Voodoo Harley Davidson! Just a few stores down is one of our destination goals -- Cafe du Monde for beignets. But wait! Across the street is a very exciting destination: Central Grocery Co. So what to do first? Beignets or mufuletta? Time for an executive (that would be me) decision. Beignets first. No Rachel, not one order to share. One order each, please. They were still warm and had so much powdered sugar, I thought my tongue was going to spaz. Ok, deep breath. Get ready for a tastebud orgasm.
Mufuletta at Central Grocery Co.
Surrounded by Italy. Posters from Sicily. Men with NY accents and big noses. Flashback. Did I just go back to the homeland? Wow, this place is great!
Michael, did you know about this one?
By the time we left the deli, we were both stuffed. We knew it was time to go back to the B&B and freshen up. Get ready for our exciting night --
VAMPIRES AND HURRICANES: Back on the trolley to Canal Street, cross to Bourbon. Get ready for this one -- Pat O'Brien's: Home of the original Hurricane. Pat O'Brien's sells food, too, so there's a place designated just for drinking (you know, as in a bar?) and you have to be 21 to enter through the gate. You are supposed to be ready to show ID. The guy sees Rachel's ID, and then just waves me in. What? No, you did not just dis me! The other guy, the actual ID checker guy, sees the distress on my face, and asks to see my ID. He is my friend. Yes, he is my friend forever.
Rachel is a lightweight. And she drank her Hurricane fast. She's slightly tipsy -- and she wants another! (Don't worry, Anna, I didn't let her.) When you get a Hurricane at Patty O's (as the natives refer to it), you pay an extra $3 for the glass -- in case you want to keep it. They'll even wrap it for you. But if you don't want to keep it, you can get a refund. Personally, the Hurricane was okay. I'll take my Blue Moon with an orange slice. Though I did have a slight buzz as we left for vampire town...
We are how New Orleans is surviving these hard economic times. We the tourists. I recommend everyone go to New Orleans. Soon. But wait till the summer's over.
There are people all over the streets, trying to make money. They play drums (with and without real drums), other instruments, pose as statues, and even tell jokes. Yes, tell jokes. A man dressed as a pirate tries to make Rachel laugh (I think he has a crush on her). He wants her to laugh so she'll tip him. She comes back with a few of her own. Sorry, pirate dude, you lose. No tip for you. (I gave him a buck for his persistence.)
I wasn't really impressed with the vampire tour. I think I was really tired, my feet hurt, and it was dark out. If it had been light, I would've enjoyed it more as the tour guide was telling some great history and pointing out some great buildings. I wouldn't recommend the tour at night, especially if you're tired. But it was interesting.
The best part of the evening was the trolley ride back to the hotel. The night before when we were on the trolley, there were some frat boys who were slightly (!) drunk. One of them, who is my new best friend, guessed my age at 32. I love him. Anyway, they were on the trolley again, this time not quite so drunk. We waited a while for the trolley to come, and to overcome their impatience, I suggested we play a singing game. They weren't very good at it, and the trolley came soon enough, so no more game. But the singing continued ...
We engaged most of the fine folks in the trolley car in an original rendition of "Don't Stop Believin" by Journey. I looked up lyrics on my phone, and we had a regular ole sing along. There were other songs we attempted, but "Don't Stop Believin" was the most successful.
New Orleans is a place I will always remember.

Friday, July 9, 2010

First Night in the Big Easy

At the end of the night (well, early morning -- 2:30ish), Josh walks us to our trolley car stop, and there are some people there with a birthday hat and a sign. Coincidence? I think not. Everything happens for a reason...
Did I mention it's hot here? Well, not like DC, but definitely hot. In more ways than one...

This is a rockin town, a town that never sleeps. Even though the streets look shady, it's perfectly safe. People have each other's backs. It's pretty awesome. But I get ahead of myself.

When we got to the Parkview Guest House last night, we were hot and sweaty, unbathed for over 36 hours. ICK. We were both looking forward to a nice, long shower. And even though we were hot, tired, sweaty and icky, we still wanted a somewhat warm shower.

No hot water. No water pressure. What? Well, if you know me, you know my hair. I need water pressure. This place was recommended to me by one of my colleagues. I was about to call her and tell her thanks, um yea, really, thanks Jennifer. But I don't have her number, and I did feel a little cleaner, so just decided to get on with it. With the night, that is.

Called Josh, he met us at the drop off point of the trolley car (they are so convenient in this town), and off we went. Josh took us on a stroll down Bourbon Street and on into the French Quarter. He pointed out drug dealers, pimps, where to go and where not to go. We finally found somewhere to get something to eat. Rachel had a Po' Boy with shrimp (as seen above). I had a plain old grilled chicken sandwich (I really wasn't very hungry). We also had a phenomenal (I'm probably going to use that word many times...) blue colored drink (above left); I have no idea what was in it. I just know I was feelin good at the end of one. Just one.

On to the next place. Josh was supposed to meet some of his friends at midnight, so he took us there. Now we're in the section of the French Quarter for gay men, but "women are welcome." In other words, there are many, many men's rooms with many urinals, but only one women's room, with one toilet. And one cannot safely enter the men's room. No, this would not be good, even though "women are welcome". If you catch my drift. Another woman (yes, I'm sure she was a woman) and I are waiting in line in front of the ONE ladies' room, and it's locked. We bang on the door. "Knock twice from the inside if anyone's in there!" So she does. We wait. Finally, I get my turn.

Leave that place, move on to the next. As we are walking, there is a "gentleman" who is infatuated with Rachel. He is so infatuated with her that he is staring and "wacking the weasel" at the same time. Every time either Josh or I look in his direction, he stops. He was, in fact, so infatuated with Rachel, that he followed us for a portion of our walk.

We go into another place where there is a contest going on. Men sign up to win $100 for the best, I guess, strip show? I dunno. There were some cute guys there. The MC was a drag queen who was, in fact, very entertaining. She told everyone the following information, so here's a shout out for New Orleans: If you buy Dawn dishwashing soap, Dawn will donate a portion of the proceeds to clean up the oil spill. So go out and buy Dawn Detergent right now!!!

She would ask the men if they liked boys or girls, and, I'm happy to report, the cutest ones liked the girls. Oh yea.

Exit that club, start walking again. Meet up with Casper. Yes, his name is Casper. He was very friendly with moi. So now it's the four of us, walking down Bourbon Street. The end of the night (2 in the morning) is near. We start the trek to the trolley car (they stop running at 3 a.m.). Josh makes sure we get to the right trolley stop. Josh is very protective, and literally peels Casper off of me. Tells him, "No, you cannot go home with them. You are coming with me." Josh is the best tour guide ever.

I love this town!!!
Today is our last day here, and we've done so much so far. I have lots of pictures and lots of stories, but I don't have time right now cuz we're getting ready to go on a Vampire Tour. I'm so excited about that!!!! If you don't hear from me in a couple of days, don't worry.... Lestat is taking good care of me...

The 26-Hour Train

Before we left the D.C./VA area, we went to eat at Red, Hot and Blue, a BBQ place not too far from The Virginian Suites. The same place we ordered from the day before... My new best beer: Blue Moon with an Orange Slice.

Josh's birthday is today, Friday, July 9. We met just a little while before getting off the train in New Orleans. He lives in the Big Easy, and was willing to show us around.

First let me say: Huge shout-out to Marco at The Parkview Guest House for letting me use this computer! If you've been following the blog, you know that my computer broke... I'll catch up with D.C. when I have access to a computer where I can download my pictures and Rachel's pictures as well. Thinking we'll probably download (or upload or whatever load it is) all of the pictures we have onto Shutterfly once we get back to Sacramento.

BEFORE THE TRIP: We got up relatively early, went to Arlington Cemetery; braved the heat. More about Arlington later, when I have access to more pictures... After the Cemetery, back to the Virginian Suites, relax in the air conditioning. Rachel swears she's gonna take the big lounge chair in her purse; it's so comfortable. I get antsy, start to make plans. If you know me, you know I can't sit still for very long. Let's go to the Safeway, go shopping, leave early, eat at Union Station. Okay? Ok. We start walking. It's still well over 100 degrees, and the heat index is probably up to 115 or so. Why do people live in a place where the humidity is so high in the summer, it snows in the winter, and you can probably only ride your motorcycle two or three months of the year???? No clue.
Anyway, so we walk to Safeway, and low and behold!.... Red, Hot and Blue on our left! Whoohoo!! This changes plans, of course, but for the better. The beer is wonderful, the food is great, and the service... well, I talked to Darrell.
I asked him his take on this dilemma: you just meet a girl, right? Then the girl leaves for three weeks for a fascinating exploration of the eastern side of the country. You like the girl. But you've only been out together, like, three times. Do you communicate with her? Or do you not bother her on her trip? Darrell says he would. Says he would call her, text her, whatever, just to make sure she knows he's interested. If he liked her, that is. Please note: This is a read-between-the-lines message for one person. If you are that person, please read between the lines. Otherwise, you can disregard the preceding story.

The DESERT was phenomenal. We shared a banana pudding. I had to lick the parfait glass. Yes, I LICKED THE PARFAIT. Couldn't help myself.
Ever been to a Safeway in a compact city? It's not like anything you've seen in little cities, like Sacramento, where there are parking lots for customers. No room for parking lots in Arlington. The Safeway is tucked away in an office complex, and they have a parking garage. Almost missed the building completely cuz it's tucked away... in an office complex.... weird. Get snacks, back out into the heat, back to the Suites. Call a cab, go to Union Station.
THE TRAIN RIDE: We get ready to get on the train. This time Rachel is ready. She wears long pants, brings a sweater, wears covered shoes. Got snacks, got sweatshirt, wearing my over-the-knee black-and-yellow striped socks that I bought in Pittsburgh. I'm ready. We situate ourselves. We sit. Read. Listen to music. Talk. Rachel texts. Rachel texts some more. Sit. Sleep. Rachel texts. Sit. Listen to music. Rachel texts. Let's pretend it's 1980. What does Rachel do in 1980? On a 26-hour train ride... Rachel reads. Rachel, stop texting. Read. Write. I think I'm gonna write a poem about Rachel texting. Later.
I'm bored after 20 hours or so on the train (most of the time spent sleeping, Rachel texting), so I go to the cafe car, sit and listen to music. Make friends with the Trails & Rails volunteer. You should look it up. They tell you the history and culture of the areas through which you are traveling. They have little games/informational programs for kids. They will stamp your National Park Service "Passport" book. I got some pamphlets, made a new friend, and even got to talk to a cute guy in a green polo shirt. He was going to a bachelor party in The Big Easy.
We're almost there. Rachel texts me! I'm in the cafe car. She's in the coach car, texting, obviously. She texts me about a couple of "rednecks" talking about being "homosexual" (try to imagine this word being said by a Louisiana gay boy). She wants to slap them. Both. So I come to the rescue. We officially meet Josh, whose picture you see up top. His friend, Kiel (pronounced keel), has a T-shirt on which says, "I'd Do Me... Twice." Nice. Josh gives me his cell number. Promise to call later. Josh is going to show us around Bourbon Street. It's his birthday, at midnight. We're gonna have fun tonight!
Wait for it... look for it... right now gotta go.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Day We Leave D.C.

Packed last night, got ready to go. Got up pretty early, ate our leftovers from dinner for breakfast, checked out of the Virginian Suites, asked them to hold our stuff, and went to Arlington Cemetery.

No pictures today; will try to download them when we get to Florida on the 14th. Probably won't be able to blog until then either.

Really want to give Arlington Cemetery its rightful props, so I'm not going to start here. Just want to say: I was so overcome with emotion when I got to J.F.K. gravesite, I almost started crying.

Rachel made it all the way today. The cemetery is probably all we'll do. Getting ready for a 26 hour train ride. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Day of Rachel's Heat Exhaustion

(Right) It was over 100 degrees in the D.C. area today, and I estimate about 80-90% humidity. We were all really hot. Curtis, who works for the parks and rec department, was using a hose to help people cool off. Reallly thoughtful fellow.

(Left) Iwo Jima Memorial

Okay, so we got up too late. It was a long night! And we had no breakfast. Having no restaurants in this hotel is probably the one and only thing I don't like about it. (Which also means no adult beverages.) Anyway, we get started late, head to the Iwo Jima memorial. After we (acted like tourists) took many pictures, I realized I had worn my Steelers Chucks the day before, and left the gel inserts in them, so we had to make a u-turn. It really wasn't too far back to the hotel, but it's only 10 o'clock, and it's already over 90 degrees with over 90% humidity. Ugh.
Back to the hotel, really hungry. Buy food from vending machines. Ugh. Get gel inserts, head back out. It's hotter. More humid. Ugh.
Head to Arlington Cemetery. Rachel says we have to eat. "Can we do this later, on the way back?" So we really don't see the Cemetery. We just kinda pass through. As we get to the end of the Cemetery, there is a memorial to women soldiers, and it's air conditioned, so we stop there and look around. Buy a few postcards, some ice cold water, and get ready to cross Arlington Memorial Bridge.
It's over 100 degrees in the shade with unbearable humidity. We keep truckin'. We remember the soldiers who served our country in Vietnam, Iraq. Where the humidity and the temperature are high, and the spirits are just as high. We just keep on goin'.
We finally get to Lincoln Memorial, get ready to cross the street. In a crosswalk. IN A CROSSWALK. Did I say in a crosswalk??? So we almost get run over. This idiot in a convertible doesn't see us. We hear screeching of tires and smell burning of brakes. (Really, you could smell the brakes...) He yells at us. He yells at us! What???
You know, in California, pedestrians have the right of way. They do. Really. It's actually a state law. Maybe in D.C. pedestrians don't have the right of way when there's a really fancy convertible with a rich man driving? I'll have to look that up.
In any case, there was an exchange of profanities, and we went on our way.
Look ahead, Rachel. There's food. Yes. We have our food; Rachel admits to eating too fast. Now she feels a little sick. But look! There's the place where Forrest sees Jenny and runs across the water ("the Reflecting Pool," thanks Brandon)! Let's go check it out, k? K. More acting like tourists, taking pictures, down to the water, more pictures. Rachel pukes. Well, just a little, into her mouth. Off to the bathroom.
It's time to go back to the hotel. We grab a taxi, get back to the hotel eventually. You know, twice it has happened that we've been in taxis and they don't know where this hotel is -- or at least how to get here. Amazing. In California, taxis do know their way around. I'm just sayin. And hey -- did you know that it was 75 degrees in Sacramento today??? I'm just sayin.
Rest. Swim. Break pool rules. Typical day for us.
Dinner time rolls around; Rachel is feeling better, let's eat! We order in from a really, really, really yummy BBQ place called "Red, Hot and Blue". We both order the five-meat combo with two St. Louis style ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, beef brisket and smoked sausage. (Is your mouth watering? Are your taste buds tingling?) On the side, we have mac and cheese -- from a box "BS" says Rachel -- , fried okra, sweet potato, and steam green beans. Along with really delicious corn bread muffins.
Now it's after 7; all the museums are closed; all the places of interest, basically, are closed. So, we decide to just wander. We consult our favorite concierges (Neal and Andre), and we're off to Georgetown via the Georgetown shuttle -- which only costs $1! Sacramento doesn't have one of these! There are definite benefits to being in a big city area.
Really not-so-exciting walk along "M" Street. Go in a few shops, buy a few books (guess what genre Rachel buys? Just guess, go ahead...) Stop in a few more shops. Gonna buy some souvenirs. Do you take Visa? "For 50 dolla." What? I have to spend 50 dolla! Guess he's not getting our business. Next touristy looking shop we stop at (to buy playing cards for the LONG train ride tomorrow), I leave the books there.
We stop in to a pub to listen to live jazz, Rachel says, "Where's the bag?" What?!? Okay, run out the door, find the shop. Dude is so helpful; he has the bag behind the counter. Refused a picture, though. Phew.
Jazz over, let's go. There's a motorcade down "M" Street!!!! This is like the coolest thing we've seen in D.C. so far!! Lots of sirens, big black SUVs, police cars, even an ambulance! Wish we'd known. Coulda got a picture.
Get back on the Georgetown Shuttle, go to the Rosslyn Metro station, get a cab back to the hotel. He gets lost. Hmmm. Well, we're back anyway. Now it's time for bed. Big day tomorrow. Probably no blog for a while unless the bed and breakfast in New Orleans has a computer. Mine is still not working. I can still check messages on my phone, so if you really feel like talking to me (cuz I really don't have any people like Rachel does), you can send me an email at

The Reunion

My brother lives a short drive from where we are staying in Arlington, VA; I think he lives in Maryland. My brother and I have been estranged for years now, though I continue to love him from afar. He is a very successful man, but has his problems. Just like you. Just like me. He became successful because of his dedication and hard work. Because he believes in what he does.

And sometimes that kind of dedication doesn't include family. No, I don't mean his immediate family. Raymond is an excellent husband and dad, and now even a grandfather.

I have to admit, of course, that to have a relationship with someone, effort has be put forth on both sides. So, I am to blame for the demise of our relationship as well. I did not attempt to contact him or my nieces and nephew ever. I never sent birthday cards or Christmas cards.

We are so different, he and I. So different. When we were younger, he wore shirts with front pockets so he could put his pencils in them with a pencil pocket thing (whatever it's called -- oh, yea, "pocket protectors"); I wore bell bottom jeans and flannel shirts. I played Spin the Bottle; he ratted me out to mom and dad. I wanted to go to dance school; he wanted to go to law school. I had a very stormy (to say the least) young adulthood (lasting until I was in my late 30s); he went to college, graduated, went on to post graduate school, etc. He is a pastor; I don't believe in religion. He has a wonderful marriage; I failed at three. He is successful; I am a teacher, barely making it paycheck to paycheck. I say cuss words; he says "God loves you."

I am the black sheep; he is the one mom and dad were always proud of. You know the story. Mom and Dad always spent more money on him, more smiles for him, more love for him. So it seemed to my twisted mind.

We do have some similarities. I love my children before anything or anyone else. I believe he does, too. I believe in a higher power, the Universe perhaps, watching over all of us.

I don't think I was jealous of him, but maybe I was. Maybe that's why I never put the effort into it. Maybe it's just because we are so different that I never bothered.

But I knew I had to do something this past Father's Day. Dad and Mom are getting old -- Dad is 80; Mom is 79. I had to make something happen -- for them. Mom and Dad are from Old School where children are supposed to be the ones to keep in touch. Parents just sit back on their laurels and wait for children to call. It's who they are. They'd never admit that they could have tried a little harder, too. Maybe sent a birthday card, a Christmas card. Whatever. I think we need to move on.

So I did.

I called their house on the evening of Father's Day and basically chewed Raymond out for not contacting them. I didn't talk about us; that wasn't my purpose. Every time an occasion (like Father's Day) came around, they would always call me and get all upset with Raymond. I could hear the hurt; I could almost taste it. It was transmitted through the phone so strongly that I'd had enough of it, and had to call him.

I'm glad I did.

I got to see my niece, Kimberlee (Katie is away at camp); Kimberlee's daughter Kaelyn; my nephew Kyle, and my sister-in-law Cathy. And of course, I got reconnected with my brother.

We had a great dinner of blue crabs, pull- 'em-apart-and-dig-the-meat-out, smash-the-legs-and-pull-the-meat-out kind of crabs. They even put butcher paper on the table for the mess. It was a unique-to-the-east-coast (I hear) kind of experience.

I didn't have one beer, and I didn't say one cuss word. Another unique experience.

So please, if you have been estranged from a family member -- make it better. There will never be a better time than the present. You never know what is going to happen tomorrow.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Day of the First Train

Pictured in left photo: left is Andre, right Neal. In right photo is Brandon. The singularly most helpful young men at the Virginian Suites in Arlington, VA.

This morning started out very early. We woke up at 3 (a.m. that is); got a taxi at 4; and then we were off to the Amtrak Station. Considering we'd gotten to sleep at around 1, it was an interesting morning.

We got to the Amtrak station at about 4:20. No one else in line. Nice. I show Rudy (the very considerate, helpful ticket agent) my ID; he takes care of me -- 1 - 2 -3. Now Rachel's turn. Rudy takes her info, takes her ID.

Can't find her. Can't find her on the paper printout. Goes into the computer. Finds her. YES!

Nope. Apparently there was some kind of mix up; the people who take the payment on the phone have to communicate the information to the people who assign the seats. Somebody dropped the ball, according to Rudy. Now it's getting to be crunch time. It's almost time to board. Rudy (God love him) had called customer service, asked for a supervisor, told them the story. But it's crunch time. The announcer announces our train boarding. We go up to the window.

Yay!!! Just as Rudy was looking on the computer one more time, he discovered it was done. Whoohoo!! On the train we go.

So, did I mention what I'm wearing? Jeans, Pittsburgh Steelers T-shirt, Pittsburgh Chucks, and a sweater. Cuz I know it's gonna be cool, kinda like on a plane. Know what Rach is wearing? T-shirt and shorts. Flip-flops. It's like effing Alaska in the compartment we're in. We have no blankets, no pillows, nothing. But... Amtrak IS the way to fly!! First of all, you can check three bags for free!!!! There is so much leg room, the seats recline, there is a foot rest that comes up from under the seat, and they offer complimentary pillows, unlike the ones you pay for on the airplane. Of course, your trip is a tad bit longer, but hey. What do teachers have to do over the summer, anyway?

Do you know they have a dining compartment? A lounge compartment? A sleeper compartment? Wow. Just amazing.

So the dining compartment is full by the time we decide to actually eat (we did get up at 3, you know). "Let's just go to the lounge compartment, get something HOT, try to defrost, and then go back up." Ok.

Dude in the lounge is a straight-up GROUCH. Just, I dunno. Like EEEEEOOOUUU. Get me outta here. Didn't bother to get his name. ICK.

Rachel had to pee 20 times. Nah, just an exaggeration. Really only 19. Cuz it was cold, she says....

About to really doze into a nice slumber (this probably happened five times), when there's some kind of an announcement: we're stopping somewhere, the dining car is open, the lounge is open; whatever. Like you're in a hospital room, and the nurses come in every hour to take blood or your pulse or whatever.

We finally get a pillow, almost there, can just taste the sweet freedom of dreamville. Steven is about to ...

Ah crap. Rachel wakes me up. Time to give the pillow back. WHAT???

The stewardess lady (whatever they're called on the train) says, "We're almost there. Deal with it." Not in a really nasty way, but really? Deal with it? Not, "I'm sorry, we're almost there"?

So here we are. In Union Station in D.C. What now? We have to ask directions at the Traveler Information Center. Where we meet the second biggest Steelers fan in the universe. And two other extremely wonderfully awesome helpful people. They were apparently Redskins fans, but hey. SIX, count them, SIX.

We have to get to Virginian Suites in Arlington, VA (duh, they're in Virginia! Check out a map and see how close D.C. is to Virginia!) So we have been helped by the most helpful staff at the Traveler Information Kiosk, but now we're on our own. Until Lady with Red Hair comes up behind us and tells us that she is going that way! Wow. I love this town. We also had a very helpful Metro worker who put money in the machine for us and told us how to work it. But Lady with Red Hair, who used to live here and still has a daughter who lives here, who is also a TEACHER (the daughter is), is now basically baby sitting us and making sure we get on the right train. Unbelievable. Do you believe in coincidence? Fate? or Purpose? I believe in Purpose. I believe things happen for a reason. Everything happens for a reason.

We make it to Virginian Suites. I have to do a little ad campaign (not that I have to, but I want to) for Virginian Suites. This place is the VERY best we've been to so far. They are suites, after all; but they go beyond that. The people are friendly and very helpful, always cheerful, and always smiling. They make you feel at home. This place had the lowest prices of all the places we're going to; yet, they have a pool, a full-sized refrigerator in the room, a fold out bed, a sitting area, a binder with information about the town, and a laundry facility. I thought I'd reached heaven at the Double Tree in Philadelphia? Uh-uh. No way. This is it. This is heaven. I can have clean undies for tomorrow!!!

One more extremely important event happened tonight, but that has to be a separate blog. It will be "The Reunion". Look for it tomorrow. Gotta go to bed now.

The Day of the Birth (of the Country) Revisited

Me, standing on an overlook after we'd gone up the incline. Heinz Field is in the background to the left.

So, happy Fourth of July everyone! I still don't have my own computer, but I'm at the Virginian Suites in Arlington, VA, and they have a computer for their guests!! Whoohoo! Unfortunately, this means I cannot upload (or download or whatever load it is) any pictures. And boy, do I have pictures!!

I passed a milestone yesterday -- several miles, and one milestone. I walked over two bridges!! With traffic on them. Really.

Okay, long story -- short version -- when I was a kid I skipped school one day to make out with a boy, had to walk over a bridge. It was a train bridge. The train came. We had to jump. Ever since then I get almost sick every time I go over a bridge. But I did it!! Rachel took a picture, so I have proof.

We did so much yesterday, it's gonna take me a minute to write it all, and I only have 15 here on this computer. I really wish I could get the pictures on here. Have to do it later. Keep checking back.

We went up one incline and then down the other. If you don't know what an incline is, I'll try to explain. Pittsburgh is a very hilly city (kind of like San Francisco, as I mentioned earlier -- Pittsburgh reminds me a lot of San Francisco); so, there are things called "inclines" that are kind of like a ski lift to the top of a viewpoint to overlook the city. We walked around at the top, then went to the next incline (which was higher, meaning we had to strain ourselves walking uphill -- ugh!) and then down. Then basically we had no other way to get to Heinz Field (to see the fireworks) then to walk. So, we walked over the bridge (Mons River), then over the Allegheny River bridge. The last bridge took us basically to Heinz Field.

We were going to get something to eat, and we did get something to eat... eventually. There were so many people around the area. Only three places to eat: Jerome Bettis 36 club, and two other places. We tried Bettis 36 first; line down the block! Went to the Mexican place -- 40 minute wait! Rivertowne North Shore said 30 minutes, so we chose there. She asked for a phone number (wow! the age of technology! no more hand-held vibrators!), and then it ended up not even being 20 minutes. The food was really good, and they had an excellent refreshing drink.

From there we walked through the parking lot -- full of people having tailgate parties -- over to Heinz Field. There were activities for the kids, booths to buy food, AND they had The Great Hall open. The Great Hall is in the stadium where you can walk and learn the history of the Steelers. They have the SIX (yes, Cowboys fans, 9ers fans, Redskins fans, SIX) superbowl trophies each in a separate column on display, a timeline that goes across the length of the Great Hall, starting in 1933 when the Steelers began, but not as the Steelers. They began as the Pittsburgh Pirates (now the name of the baseball team). Anyway, it was fun acting as a tour guide for Rachel.

But wait... what do I hear in the background??? Country music, you say? Yes, it's the Stickers!! (Yea, I'd never heard of them either.) They were not too bad, and I'm not a country fan. Following the Stickers was Phil Vasser -- whom I'd never heard of either, but Rachel had. They played until 9:15ish. I think a DJ took over at that point because ...

FIREWORKS!!! Music played to the fireworks, just like back home. Only this was NOT back home. This was a fireworks display at the point of the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, PA! It was much more spectacular than Cal Expo, but maybe because we were right under them! It was loud and exciting, beautiful and stunning. Thrilling. Awesome.

The best of my life.

Then we had to walk (some more), but by this time, mama was feelin good. It was really hot, and so I decided to get a little water from a little water fall. I didn't know there was a puddle. I swear! My shoes got soaked. But I was cool!

The rest of the night was really not exciting -- caught the shuttle back to the hotel, got two hours sleep, got up in time to go to Amtrak to continue the adventure.

Coming soon: The Day of the First Train...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day of the Fan, Part II

Left of me is Harry, right is Donny. Both from Philly. Phillies fans! So many of them at the game; probably more Phillies fans than Pirates fans. Kinda like a Kings game when LA is in town.

Part II, Day of the Fan:
The tour of Heinz Field took almost two hours. And then I went to lunch.


For a serious Steelers Fan, this place is like free food to a foodie, the newest and best video games to a videoholic (made that one up), a kid in a candy store.... You get the idea.

I was really tempted to take a napkin (would they really miss a napkin???), but I didn't. (See, Jed, I don't take stuff all the time!) But I have to admit, if they had some kind of emblem on them, insignia or something... well, you know. They were just plain old black napkins. Ugh.

Caught the bus to the downtown area, then transferred to another bus to the Green Tree area where my hotel is. Got back just in time to change into my new Steelers shirt, jeans and Steelers Chucks -- and then got on the hotel shuttle to the Pirates vs. Phillies baseball game. What a rivalry that is! 'Course I looked like a Pirates fan cuz I was all dressed in my Steelers stuff, and in van with me -- five Phillies fans!! I guess I'm an easy person to make friends with cuz I just keep making 'em.
Chris (not in the picture above), Harry, Donny and I hung out together. I didn't have any tickets, so I get ready to buy them. There's a man outside the gate to the ticket window. I figure, "Ah, they're sold out." But no! He's standing there, just standing there. Looks at me. Says, "Hey, you want a couple of free tickets???" What???? Well, alrighty then.
From there, we all went to SoHo to get some liquid refreshment before the game. I meet a really cute, bubbly young woman. Probably mid-20s. Cutie. With a handsome man. Both work for Comcast. She was so bubbly! She loves my shirt (as do I), she loves my shoes (as do I), she says something really crazy, "I want to be you!" This, of course, in reference to me being a teacher (she quit school just before she got her degree), having summers off, working with kids, being a Steelers Fan (which she is, also), and having the best summer of my life. She tells me that even if she went back and finished school -- and I think she only has a semester or two left -- she would not be able to get a position. They are not hiring teachers in Pennsylvannia either.
Apparently, education is not a priority in this great country of ours. Benjamin Franklin would be so disappointed.
Pittsburgh won the game, 2-0. Philadelphia lost for the second night in a row. Benjamin Franklin would be so disappointed.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Day of the Fan

Ever drink too much and wake up really early -- like 6 a.m.? You feel kinda whoozy (yes, you know the feeling), head kinda spinning, feeling not hungry at all, icky -- why didn't I brush my teeth??? So you know how I felt this morning. As I was typing the blog this morning. Trying to eat, but nah, nevermind. Back up to the room after writing the blog. Wander around the room, not knowing really what to do. What to do. What to do. Holding on to the table so I don't spin. Ick. Best thing to do? Take a shower.

After the shower, I did feel much better. By then it was about 10:30ish, so I went back downstairs (did I mention I'm on the 17th floor? Yes, that's right!) I ask the people at the desk about getting to Heinz Field -- is there a shuttle. She calls me a taxi. I take myself, my CC, my ID, my phone. Pay for the ride ($18!!!) with my CC; everything is cool. Get to the field -- I'M SO EXCITED I COULD SCREAM!

The ATM machine is broken. Did I mention I didn't bring cash? Run to the closest ATM -- I only have 10 minutes to work with. I make it in time. I'M SO EXCITED I COULD SCREAM!
After I pay, I talk to the man in charge ("over there, the one with the white shirt, ask him, he's in charge of everything"). So I'm a teacher... can you relate to this? I ask for 33 pencils (instead of the ONE he's going to give me). He gives them to me. He was so sweet. Even got me a bag to put them in! I'M SO EXCITED I COULD SCREAM!

I'm in a place I've dreamed of for years. Where do you want to go? Where do you dream of? Heinz Field is one of those places for me. I had to call someone. Had to scream into the phone. First two people -- no answer. Then Rachel (who's joining me here tomorrow) finally answers. I get to SCREAM to her!!! I'M AT HEINZ FIELD! Poor Rachel. Thank goodness she's joining me. She needs to reel me in. I'm out of control....

I am seriously having the most fun I have ever had -- in my entire life.

I think I need to stop here for now. Keep ya hangin. Pictures to come. I'm seriously SO tired. Want to post this so you can get a flavor for the beginning of the day. The rest of the day was filled with making friends and being a serious fan. Thus, the Day of the Fan. Promise to finish in the morning. Hope to get to M, Tu, Wed soon... Sorry. Soon, I promise.


Day of the Bus

Intersections in Philadelphia all have this sign:
"Don't Block the Box" (We all had a great laugh. Go ahead, you can too.)

Yesterday was a travel day. Nay, not just a travel day, but a travel day. It was one of the best days ever! Well, let me qualify that: this entire trip has been filled with one of the best days ever, just piled one on top of the next!

So I spent the night before at the Doubletree, downtown Philadelphia. It was heaven compared to Temple University. Sheer Heaven. Didn't do much other than sleep and eat, but it was wonderful. Left early in the morning, Greyhound to Pittsburgh. I thought it was going to be awful and was very sorry I didn't go Amtrak. But...

We were more than halfway to Pittsburgh when we got a flat tire! "What?" you say, "that's a good day?" Well, yes, I'd have to say it was. Everything happens for a reason, you know. Before the driver discovered we had a flat, I was going to get a few snacks (we stopped in Altoona), but I had no cash, and their credit card machine was broken. So I ran around trying to find an ATM machine. No luck. Another passenger was in the same boat as me. (Her name, it turns out, is Jamera ["call me Jaime"]). So I rummage around, find a 20, ask Jamera if she wants something to eat; and let the friendship begin!

We hurry, hurry, hurry... then we find out the tire is flat, and we'll have a while to wait anyway, so we start talking, walking, and discovering. In Altoona, PA! ("Mayberry" according to Jamera.)

Jamera is 23 years old and attending Penn State. She's been a student for five years; decided to pick up a minor, so it's taken her a little longer. She is a criminal justice major; when she graduates she will go to law school. She's smart, funny, outgoing, motivated, easy to be with, easy on the eyes, quick with wit, and all around a fun person.
We started walking around to find an ATM (we still needed to have some cash), and decided to go to a pharmacy instead, buy some snacks, get cash back and forego the most probable ATM fee. After the pharmacy, we stumbled upon an art gallery! On display were some of the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen. Some were black and white, some black and white with superimposed color, and some color. The black and white were, of course, my favorite. It was a photographic story of Cuba. I wish I'd taken pictures to share, but I didn't have my camera - why would I? In Altoona/"Mayberry," PA??? Anyway, one of my favorites (and Jamera's) was a b/w straight on picture of a huge cigar in the mouth of a man who was out of focus. It was so close up of the cigar, and the cigar was so big, that the tobacco looked almost like little worms. There were pictures of people (my personal favorite, taking pictures of people), most of them not posed. There were pictures of old, really old, cars. They were all digital (I think), and the cars were color with the rest of the picture black and white. Those were my second favorite. Oh, and guess what? (All you Dexter fans) The gallery also featured an artist whose passion seemed to be blood spatter! In some of the pictures, you could see a body or a body part. I believe most of the work was acrylic on canvas. It was enticing, beautiful. The entire exhibit. I wish I'd written down more information. Sorry.
So the bus is ready to go, we get on. I get hit on! Great way to boost the ego, getting hit on. Too bad they were all really old guys! (Older than me, anyway) Three of them!
It is more uncomfortable, riding on a bus. But we made it. Jamera shared some information with me about Pittsburgh: places to visit, things to see, etc. When we get to Pittsburgh (hereafter known as Pitt), I get into a cab to the hotel (not as nice as the Doubletree), and the cab driver mentions the same deli as Michael did -- Primanti Brothers! It has several locations here in Pitt. I can't wait for Rachel to get here so we can go. (I'd get in trouble if I went without her.)
At almost 9 o'clock, after traveling all day, and having such an exciting time (!) in Altoona, I was really tired, so I just went to the restaurant in the hotel. And met two Brits! James and Simon -- great British names, don't you think? We talked and talked, talked some more, drank a little bit and had a blast! There is a convention at the hotel currently, the Grotto. If you're not familiar with them, they are very similar to the Masons, the Knights of Columbus, etc. They work with Shriner's! Wonderful people.
So, James tells me he's made friends with some of the Grottos, and they invited him to their parties which are down the hall -- "free booze" says James. And of course, I follow. ... It was a great night.
I promise to catch up with Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but I had to get this in before I forget it all.