Vienna 2 – Virginia

September 28, 2010

Hi.

I’m still here.

I was going to leave a couple days ago. Really, I was.

But I lost my wallet.

I lost my wallet because of a Kid’s Scoop of Chocolate Fudge ice cream.

It’s been hot while driving across the country, and as I result my car ran low on coolant. So Friday afternoon I drove to the Vienna auto parts store to get some. I went to the Mini to add the coolant, but I decided to wait a bit to let the engine cool down (that’s what it says to do). In the mean time, I went to the Baskin Robbins across the street and ordered a scoop.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I must have put my wallet on the counter to take the ice cream and been so captivated by the Chocolate Fudge that I failed to retrieve my wallet.

I realized that evening that I didn’t have my wallet, but when I returned to Baskin Robbins, they said they didn’t have it.

Staying in motels with a dog requires plastic, so I called the banks to get new credit/debit cards sent here to Steve and Diane’s house. It takes 5-7 business days to get the new cards. So I’ll be here for a while longer.

When I told this to my mom, she said I was going to start smelling like a fish.

I talk to my mom almost every day, and she’s my favorite person in the world, but I had no idea what she meant.

She explained that people say that a guest who stays over three days begins to smell like a fish.

I Googled it and found that it’s a Benjamin Franklin quote: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

Surely not.

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Vienna – Virginia

September 24, 2010

Two friends for me. Two friends for Kettle.

The two friends for me are Steve and Diane. Steve and I were in the same freshman dorm in college, and we’ve been friends ever since. Diane showed up a couple years later, and the three of us have been even better friends ever since.

The two friends for Kettle are Calvin and Zack. Calvin is a 13 year old Australian Shepherd, and Zack is an 11 year old Chow mix. Calvin is an old and wise dog. Zack is not as old, nor as wise – but makes up for it with enthusiasm.

Steve and Diane have a house in Vienna, Virginia, which is about 20 miles west of Washington D.C. Diane is an OB-GYN, and Steve in the State Department.

I like them. I like their house. I like their dogs. I like their friends. And I like their Internet connection.

So I haven’t left yet.

I’ve been here a week.

When I arrived last Friday, we immediately went out to meet some of their friends for dinner in Arlington.

I must tell you what I had for dinner …

Fried chicken and waffles.

Fried chicken and waffles, all of it covered with a maple butter syrop.

That’s right.

Apparently this dish is quite the craze around here. Understandably.

The next night we were part of a progressive dinner with another set of friends. We were responsible for the last course: dessert.

I must tell you about the dessert …

It was cake.

The cake was made with batter.

The batter was made with a pint of melted Ben & Jerry’s ice cream mixed into it.

That’s right.

Diane asked Steve and me to get the ice cream when we went to the store. We chose the “Boston Cream Pie” flavor because we liked the idea of cake ice cream within cake. (Boston Cream Pie is cake, not pie.) (Although, in this case, it was ice cream, not cake.) (But, also in this case, it ended up being cake.)

The cake was as good as you would expect it to be.

That good.

While we were eating cake, Zack the dog was in my room eating half a bag of Glycocyamine dog treats that he found in my bag.

While we were sleeping, Zack was having diarrhea all over the family room and living room carpets.

In the morning we cleaned up the worst of it, then Steve and I went to a yoga class, while Diane went to the store, rented a steam cleaner, and cleaned the carpets.

Totally unfair. Diane’s a trooper.

A pooper trooper.  🙂

We all then went on a hike to see the Great Falls. Calvin had to stay at home because his hips. Zack had to come with us because of his bowels. Kettle had his choice, and he came.

The Great Falls were good.

We then had a nice lunch out. A nap. And a nice dinner in.

When Monday rolled around, Steve and Diane went back to their busy lives, while I stayed and lingered around.

My days have been filled with working on my game, walking the dogs, helping with dinner, and doing yoga (I signed up for an “All the Hot Yoga You Can Do In Week” promotion for $20).

One night Steve took me to his gym where I joined him and his swim club for a one hour swim workout.

I’m not doing that again.

On Wednesday, I finally took Kettle into town to see our nation’s capitol.

We saw the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress. We then walked back past the Capital, down the Mall towards the Washington Monument.

As we walked down the left side of the mall, I watched the sun set just to the left of the Washington Monument.

About 20 seconds after the sun had fully set, I realized that if I had been walking down the middle of the mall, rather than on the left, the sun would have set directly behind the Washington Monument.

About 15 seconds later, I remembered that today was the Fall Equinox.

About 10 seconds later I realized that whoever designed the placement of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument must have intentionally lined them up so that during the equinox someone could stand between the two buildings and admire what must be an incredible sight of watching the sun set down behind the Washington Monument.

Damn.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

About 45 seconds too late.

Anyway …

It’s Friday again, and I’m still here. I’ll let you know when I leave.

 

Home for the week

 

 

Welcome to my new place.

 

 

Diane & Steve being Diane & Steve

 

 

Calvin

 

 

Zack

 

 

Treat?

 

 

Squirrel?

 

 

Great Falls

 

 

Senator Kettle

 

 

Justice Kettle

 

Westport – Connecticut

September 17, 2010

Next stop: Westport, Connecticut.

Why Westport?

Because my cousins, Lou and Dorothy, live there. Lou’s mother and my dad’s mother were sisters.

I arrived at 7:30 and was welcomed with wine and appetizers, then a delicious dinner of roasted chicken and vegetables that Lou grew on his plot in a community garden. Plus a green bean salad made with beans from a line of seeds that Lou’s family has maintained for decades.

I felt at home.

The next morning Lou and Dorothy’s daughter, Gina, came over with her three-year-old twins, Nathan and Elaina. The kids flew out of the mini van and stopped moving only once – to pose for a picture. Well, they didn’t really stop, but they slowed down at least

I then took the train into Manhattan. Kettle stayed at home with Dorothy, where he made sure that the big house and yard were fully appreciated.

I did 3 things in NYC that afternoon and evening:

1. I met up with Katherine, who is another daughter of Lou and Dorothy’s that lives and works in the city. We had coffee near Grand Central Station.

2. I met up with David Lipa, the significantly younger brother of my friend Bill. When Bill and I were in high school, Davey had just been born. Davey now does things like start companies, write novels, and hang out with New York models. We had drinks in SOHO.

3. I met up with Brion, a friend of Davey’s, who is a graphic designer and may help out with my game. We had gourmet smoothies and talked shop.

I then took the train back Westport, where Kettle met me at the door. He seemed quite at home with Dorothy and Lou.

And he’s not even related.

My original plan was to head to Washington D.C. the next day, but that changed because of what Davey told me while having drinks:

“You should stay and party at least one night in New York. It’s fashion week.”

I didn’t know what fashion week was, but I played along.

“You can come with me to an art gallery reception tomorrow. My girlfriend can get us in. And then maybe we’ll go out with her and her model friends.”

I called Steve in D.C. and told him I’d be a day late.

The next day in Westport I went to a yoga class, had a nice lunch with Lou and Dorothy (I had a swordfish wrap!), toured Lou’s community garden, and gave Kettle a much needed bath. I then took the train to Grand Central Station and walked to the Haunch of Venison art gallery on the 20th Floor of a midtown skyrise.

While I was on the train, Dorothy called and told me to be careful because there was just a tornado in Brooklyn.

It would be hard for anyone to say which was more odd:

a) that I was on a train to a trendy NYC art gallery reception

b) that the name of the gallery was “Haunch of Venison”

or

c) that there was a tornado in Brooklyn.

But there’s no doubt that the exhibition itself (Patricia Piccinini: Not As We Know It) was more odd than any of those things.

Her sculptures were partly human, partly animal, and completely freaky. Supposedly the things sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nonetheless, you may want to skip the pictures.

I found Davey, who had just been in Brooklyn during the tornado and seen people outside running for cover. He introduced me to his girlfriend Emma, who works at the gallery, and his friend Ari, a writer originally from Santa Cruz.

After the show, Emma wasn’t able to take us out with her friends, so Davey, Ari and I did the next best thing.

We went to an Asian noodle place, where I gorged myself on Saigon noodles with vegetables.

Then Ari broke off, and Davey and I had a drink at the W, where two attractive girls in their early 20’s sat down and started talking to us.

Well, they sat down next to Davey and started talking to him.

But I was there.

It was then that I got a text from my cousin Katherine, asking if I was still in the city and whether we wanted to meet her and her boyfriend at a nearby bar.

Davey was fine with leaving the two girls – because he’s with Emma.

I was fine with leaving the two girls – because of the creepy rule: half my age plus 7 was more than their age.

And they weren’t talking to me anyway.

So we met Katherine and her guy, had beer and conversation, and played a bit of shuffleboard. I then caught a train back to Westport.

It was a good night. Nothing to write home about … but that’s not the standard for this blog.

Nathan-Gina-Dorothy-Elaina

Slowing Down

Me, Lou, and Lou's Beans

Emma and Davey

Thing 1

Thing 2

Thing 3

Thing 4

Thing 5 - front

Thing 5 - Back

Boston – Massachusetts

September 14, 2010

I started the day by doing triangles with a dozen older ladies and one older gentleman.

It was a Iyengar yoga class, where you do fewer poses but do them longer. In this case, we spent about half an hour doing triangle poses.

(If you don’t know what a triangle pose is, imagine doing a cartwheel, but freezing right before your feet leave the ground. It’s something like that. If you know what a triangle pose is, then please forgive me for just saying that.)

After class, we drove 3 hours to MINI of Peabody, where they fixed my car window.

Peabody is on the outskirts of Boston.

Peabody is pronounced Peebidee.

That’s all I know about Peabody.

(No, you thought it wrong again. It’s Peebidee, remember?)

After that, I met Nanette and Tony for dinner. They live in San Francisco in the same condo complex as me. I know Nanette because we go to the same yoga studio … Pretzel’s Yoga & Pilates.

Nanette and Tony also have a great place in the South End of Boston, and I met them there for a glass of wine before we walked over to a fabulous dinner at Legal Seafood. Legal Seafood has the reputation as the best place in Boston for seafood, and based on the crab cakes and the Atlantic salmon that I had, I have no qualms about spreading the word.

And Nanette and Tony were super nice hosts, so I’ll spread the word about that too.

The next morning Kettle and I went sightseeing. We did this in two ways:

1) We walked from Beacon Hill (fancy houses & shops) to the North End (Little Italy) and back.

2) We drove to random places because we missed the proper on or off ramps.

I can’t believe that I said that driving in Quebec was difficult. Compared to Boston, Quebec was like navigating a Drive-Thru.

I was using my iPhone GPS, and it worked like a charm. A bad luck charm. A voodoo doll that you stick needles in. Something that you don’t want anywhere near you. Something bad.

But Boston is great, and I’m glad I went.

And as an added bonus, I managed to find my way out.

Eventually.

A Beacon Hill sidewalk

A Beacon Hill 7-Eleven

A Beacon Hill Starbucks

An unregistered voter

Paul Revere's house - on left

If it was 235 years ago, Paul Revere would have been crying wolf.

Chocolate Gelato for hungry me

Portland – Maine

September 13, 2010

From Burlington, we drove east across Vermont, then across New Hampshire, and into to Portland, Maine.

It was a spectacular drive, featuring beautiful landscapes, cool old towns, and a delightful vanilla milkshake.

In Portland, we checked into a motel, then drove downtown and ate at a brewpub called Gritty’s. I had Blackened Haddock (the local fish that’s not lobster).

That’s it for today.

But there’s something else I should tell you about. It happened a couple days prior, in Montreal.

During the 20 minutes that Kettle and I were exploring Montreal’s Mont Royal park, someone broke into the Mini and stole my laptop.

It was my fault. I forgot to cover up the laptop, and so it was slightly visible. Due to my carelessness, I came back to a car that had neither my computer, nor a back side window.

While I cleaned up broken glass, Kettle happily lay on the sidewalk watching. He was not at all bothered by the situation, which helped me keep some perspective. They say dogs help reduce high blood pressure … this was a perfect example.

I went to the nearby Apple Store and bought a new MacBook Pro. There was also a Mini dealership in Montreal, but it was late Friday afternoon and the service department was closed till Monday – so the window would have to wait.

From Montreal to Burlington, having Kettle’s window “open” wasn’t a problem. But when I left Burlington, it was about to rain, so I took out my tent cover and wrapped it around the window, securing it by closing the hatchback and passenger doors onto each end. It worked pretty well.

By the time I was in New Hampshire, I was starting to feel better about the whole ordeal.

So I treated myself to a milkshake.

Vermont State Capital in Montpelier

Street in Montpelier

Bridge in Montpelier

Store in Montpelier

The Road to Maine

Looking for a bridge

Conway, New Hampshire

Burlington – Vermont

September 12, 2010

When I told Steve that I was planning on going to Montreal, he said I must bring them something French.

As I crossed the border leaving Canada, 3 things happened in quick succession:

1. I realized that I had failed to buy anything French for Steve and Diane.

2. I realized that I still had Canadian money left that I had failed to spend.

3. I realized that there was a duty free shop on my left that I was about to drive right by if I failed to act fast.

I succeeded in acting fast, and went in the shop.

I bought some maple syrup with my remaining 10 Canadian bucks.

Not exactly French. Not exactly thoughtful or generous. But at least I’m owning up to my less than prouder moments.

We entered New York and hung a quick left, which immediately put us in Vermont.

Vermont was like a New England theme park. Everything was pristine and perfect. Fancy people were biking, boating, lunching, and walking amid idyllic scenery.

I found myself worrying about where Kettle would poop.

Our destination was Burlington – the smallest American city that is a state capital.

Burlington’s downtown shopping street is called Church Street. The buildings are old (in a good way). The shops are interesting. The street is wide. And at the end of the street is a beautiful church.

If I had walked down Church St. on a normal day, I would have said, “This would be a great place for a street fair!”

But it must not have been a normal day, because I instead said, “Hey, there’s a street fair!”

People were everywhere.

Adding to the local charm, there was a summer-long art festival featuring art-cows, pieces of art the size and shape of cows, stationed along the street. The name of the festival is “The Cows Come Home To Burlington.”

Okay, then.

That night, Church Street was once again full of people. The University of Vermont, just up the street, was back in session and all the kids were out enjoying their first Saturday night.

I went to a bar where I sat outside, had a local beer, and listened to a good band. (Or maybe it was a good beer and a local band … it was some combination of those.)

But instead of going back to my dorm, I went back to my tent.

Yes, Kettle and I finally camped again. Weather didn’t permit it the entire time we were in Canada, but our vacation from camping finally came to an end, and we stayed at a campground just outside of town.

Kettle wasn’t too happy about it. He prefers motels.

It's nice here.

Finally posing at an antique shop for mom

A street fair!

I feel like I'm being watched.

But can you do this?

You can't take me here and not give me ice cream.

I'm done with the cows.

Coin-Douglas – Canada

September 11, 2010

I wasn’t sure what to do next.

I could spend another night in Quebec seeing sights, or I could get back on the road … back to Montreal, then New England, then down to Washington D.C., where I will be visiting my friends, Steve and Diane.

I was standing there in the motel room, struggling whether or not to check out of the motel.

I was thinking so hard that the smoke alarm went off.

Okay, I don’t know if that’s why, but I wasn’t creating smoke any other manner, and the smoke alarm really did go off!

It scared me. It confused Kettle. But at least it helped me make my decision.

The motel deactivated the alarm, and a few minutes later two maintenance woman (the maids) came and looked at the smoke alarm and said things to each other in French that I did not understand. But clearly they needed more time to figure it out. Then one of them looked at my half-packed bags and asked hopefully, “Quittez-vous?”

Are you leaving?

Oui, je quitte.

Leaving worked out well because one the “top ten” things to do in Quebec is to drive along the Chemin du Roy (“King’s Road”), the historic road along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, connecting Quebec City and Montreal. And I just happened to be going that way.

The river was too wide to walk across any bridges, but we did have a nice lunch at a picturesque roadside restaurant. I had a piece of duck on a bed of greens, with a yummy sweet & sour chutney, plus some soup which I photographed for you.

Back in Montreal, we walked up to the top of Mont Royal (a park on a hill), then went downtown for a quick crepe, then drove south for half an hour and stayed at a motel in Coin-Douglas.

We were now 15 miles from the border with the United States of America.

Bonne nuit, Canada.

Sightseeing

Multi-tasking

Lunch break

Soupe