Tales from the East!
We took the red-eye on Thursday, 19 June. The kids were fine, which was nice. We got into Newark at about 6 in the morning, and then we had to drive the 90 minutes or so to my parents' house in Doylestown, PA. My parents came to meet us, even though we were renting a car at the airport. That was nice of them, but it also allowed us to split up the luggage into two cars. We had two car seats and Mia's wheelchair plus suitcases, so it was kind of tough to fit everything, even though we rented a Jeep Cherokee. SUV, apparently, stands for Storage UnaVailable, because the trunk space was miniscule. What's the damned point of an SUV if not for more storage space, I ask?
As my dad and I drove south through New Jersey with Mia in the back seat, I looked around and fell in love with the area all over again. I haven't lived in Pennsylvania in 15 years, but I always liked it. Usually, when I go back, I don't have time to really look around, so I often forget how nice it is. I miss the trees and other green things, but I also miss the curvy and bumpy and narrow roads, the breezes through the trees, and the old buildings everywhere. Sure, I hate getting stuck behind a slow driver on a two-lane road, but that's a small price to pay. We got home about 9 in the morning and kind of crashed. Nobody slept right away, but we all had to sit around like slugs because of the rough night. We sat outside on my parents' deck, which is very nice, and as the June heat wasn't oppressive and it was windy outside, we enjoyed it immensely.
On Saturday we went to Valley Forge for an impromptu high school reunion. My friend Randy put it all together, which was keen of him. One of the reasons we went to Pennsylvania at this point in the year was because this reunion was planned. When I heard it was going to be on 21 June, I thought to myself, "Hey! Norah's birthday is on 22 June. Why not make it a vacation?" My mother was thrilled, as she's always a bit depressed that she can't see the kids on their birthdays. So she planned a huge party when I told her I'd be back on that weekend. I knew I'd be tired (especially with what happened on Saturday night, which wasn't planned in advance), but I rarely get a chance to see so many of my friends and relatives, so who cares, right? I can suck it up and push through the sleepiness, damn it!
At Valley Forge we met up with a bunch of old friends. Some I had seen recently, as I keep in touch with them, but some I hadn't seen since I graduated. And that was in the Eighties, man! It's interesting how you lose touch with people, and we talked about it briefly. In the age of e-mail, it's far easier than back in the day, when you actually had to keep track of addresses and phone numbers. Most of the people I saw were doing far better things than I am. My friend Deborah (that's her in the first picture of this post) works at the Fox Chase Cancer Center, for instance. My friend Sharon (she's in the second picture of this post) teaches third grade, as does her husband. No dropping out of the educational turntable to sit on her ass for her! My friend Mike gets mentioned on CNN.com because he's, you know, helping cure cancer. Stupid cancer researchers! My friend Kelli also works for Merck, doing cancer things (although my blog is the first hit on a Google search of her name, because I rule the world and shit). Her husband Randy, who set the whole thing up, also saves lives (a picture of the two of them is directly below). Stupid lifesavers! And what do I do? Yes, sit on my ass and blog about stuff. Hey, someone needs to do the essential stuff in this world, right?
It was great to see everyone. It was odd that everyone was pretty much the same age, but all their children were pretty much the same age. Nobody, it seemed, had kids when they were very young. I don't know what that means, but I did find it interesting. Mia and Norah were, with one exception, the only girls there. Everyone had two kids, and they were all boys. One friend said it was because of the water in Pennsylvania - I moved away and it sucked all the Y chromosomes out of me! Mia and Norah had a blast meeting everyone, and Norah played with the other kids and the toys and never wanted to stop! The weather, again, was wonderful, and I had a great day. Krys didn't know as many people, but I think she still enjoyed herself. She said she did, and why would she lie? I was very excited to meet so many old friends again and find out what cool things they're doing with their lives. It was nice because it wasn't an overwhelming reunion (my 20th is next year, but I probably won't be there) with too many people. I was disappointed some of the people who were invited couldn't make it, but at least I saw some good friends. That's always cool.
We left to head home, but my day wasn't done! No sirreebob! Earlier in the week, my friend Dave e-mailed me and told me some interesting news. He had been down in Philadelphia the weekend before and saw something in a bathroom. Oh, come on, people, nothing icky! He had been hanging out at the Theater of the Living Arts (TLA) and in the bathroom hangs a large poster showing upcoming shows. As he perused it, he noticed that on the 21st of June, Fish was playing. Long-time readers will know that this is NOT the Grateful Dead rip-off band, but the ex-lead singer of the greatest band in the world, Marillion. He e-mailed me and asked me if I wanted to go see him. Fish was hanging out at The Irish Times, a really cool bar near the theater, before the gig, so we went down, had a few beers, got my picture taken with him (he was kind of grumpy, but I didn't care), and then went to the concert. I debated with Dave which is lamer - wearing the T-shirt of the band the singer left 20 years ago, or wearing the T-shirt of the singer himself. We decided it was equally lame. The concert was quite excellent, as Fish jumped back and forth from songs from his new album and songs from his last Marillion album from 1987. I'm not sure why he's so in love with that album, but it was very good and Dave (and his twin brother Frank, who came down to the city and joined us) had a good time, which made me feel better, as they took the time to join me. I got home about 1 in the morning, exhausted, but glad I went. I can sleep when I'm dead, right????
Sunday arrived, and although I slept in a bit, my mom and Krys had things for me to do, man! I had to drive down to pick up some food from Wegman's. I went down with my brother-in-law, and as we drove, I noticed some things about our section of Pennsylvania. There's no freakin' convenience stores! I mean, what kind of world is it where chain stores don't rule the landscape???? Sheesh. Wegman's scared the crap out of me, by the way. It's huge and daunting and kind of pretentious. The store near my parents did have a second floor, which I've never seen in a grocery store. How odd.
Norah's party began around noon, and it was quite keen. My mom invited a bunch of people, and a bunch of people actually came. A few of my friends showed up, a few of Krys's friends showed up, and a bunch of relatives I hadn't seen in years showed up. Norah cleaned up a bit more than I would have liked (she really doesn't need any more toys, after all), but she and Mia had a great time. Michelle and Kevin, who used to live in Arizona and with whom I worked at my old school, came up from Virginia, and it was great to see them. My sister and her kids came up from Virginia as well, and Norah really enjoyed having a lot of kids around. It was another great day.
The rest of the week was relatively quiet. I asked my mom and dad to drag out their slides from our four-year European "vacation" from 1975-79, and we checked those out. It was quite funny looking at our stylish clothing from that era. On Monday we drove up to Pottsville to see Krys's grandmother. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here, but she had a stroke in November and has been hospitalized and/or in a home since. We knew she really wanted to see the kids (she had seen Norah in October, but she hadn't seen Mia in years), and we're honestly not sure how long she'll be around. She's over 90 (I think she turned 92 this year), so even if she were healthy, anything could happen, so I know she was very happy to see both Krys and the children. She looked better than I thought she would, and although she wasn't completely with it, she knew what was going on for the most part. The biggest problem with her now is that she tends to repeat herself a lot. It's very weird seeing someone like her, who has a lot of the same problems that Mia has, but at the opposite end of her life. She seems comfortable, but I'm not sure how happy she is. She was extremely upset when we were leaving, because she kept saying she wasn't sure if she would see us again. She's done this ever since the kids were born - whenever we left, she would wonder aloud if she would survive until the next encounter - but this time, obviously, it's a bit more serious. We don't know when we'll be able to get back to Pennsylvania - not only are plane ticket prices going up, but now they have the extra charges for luggage and such. Who knows when we can afford another trip?
On Tuesday we took Krys to Newark so she could fly back to Arizona. She couldn't take more time off from work, so she had to go home. That night I went to a friend's house and saw a couple of friends who were in Boston over the weekend and so missed all the festivities. It was great to see them, because whenever we get back to Pennsylvania, I like to see all my friends, and Jen and Jeff are fantastic. Jeff reads the blog (hi Jeff!) and Jen ought to. What else does she have to do, man? They told us all about how horrible Bostonians are (the second people in a week to tell me how horrible Bostonians are, interestingly enough) and we talked about how much fun kids are (they don't have any, and after hearing our stories, probably aren't changing their minds about it anytime soon). I really wanted to see more of my friends, but all these people have actual jobs, so it was difficult to get together during the week. Stupid gainfully employed people!
On Wednesday we went on the New Hope Railroad with the kids. It was quite fun, and I think both kids enjoyed themselves. It's always tough to tell with Mia, because she's always in a good mood, and Norah is tough to read too - she never really acts like she's unhappy, but she's not old enough to really express if she likes something. But they seemed to enjoy it.
My last day in PA was Thursday, but I left late in the day so I had some time to do stuff. I went to the comic book store in downtown Doylestown, which lacked back issues (they're in a small space) but had a wealth of excellent graphic novels and trade paperbacks. Downtown Doylestown is a very cool place to visit, and I always wish I had more time to just wander around. Then I drove down to my old town of Warminster and visited the public library. I used to go to the library all the time, and I went because I had a mission. Years ago, when I was but a lad, I remember reading a hardcover book that reprinted the origin stories of DC heroes from the 1940s. Batman and Superman were in it, and so was Wonder Woman, Plastic Man (who wasn't with DC back then, but by the 1980s was), Green Lantern, and a few others. I mentioned this a while ago to the guys at my comic book store, and they were interested in finding out who published it and when it came out and all sorts of pertinent information. I didn't think it would still be at the library after 20 years, but I figured I would check it out anyway. They were having a 50¢ sale in the lobby, so I bought two books. Yes, I know I don't need any more books, but it was only a dollar! Anyway, I couldn't find the book I was seeking, but that was fine. I got to tool around in my mom's convertible for a while with the top down. Usually when we visit, it's too cold to have the top down, so it was pretty nifty zipping around in a sports car. I felt like picking up coeds, man!
We spent more time at the airport in Newark than I care to, but the plane wasn't too delayed. We ended up getting into Phoenix at about midnight and arriving at home about 1 in the morning. The kids were amazingly good, from the airport to the plane (where they slept most of the time) and even back to the house. It was quite the time.
So that was our vacation, or at least part of it. I go into more detail about the kids and the fun times they had over at the kids' blog. Go over and read about Mia's and Norah's groovy time!
These last two pictures are my sister, Barbra, and me, holding photos from high school. So mine is probably from 1988/89 and hers is from 1986/87. Man, she had big hair and I was thin. Perhaps it's best not to look into the past too much!