Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I didn’t tell either of the boys what adventure awaited them, but they knew something was up. When I picked them up on Thursday and rushed home to grab two bags and turn off the electricity, they knew we were going on a trip, but they thought it was to be local. I told them we were going to my workplace to wait there to catch a ride. Things started off weirdly however, when a pizza-delivery man saw us walking and tried to give me $40! I declined, of course, and had to explain that we were not homeless, but that it was very nice of him to offer. Joey, however, said "I'll take it." I shooed him away, but in the process I spilled the beans about the trip and real destination. Then later, when I took the boys to McDonald’s for dinner, we saw a shooting star streaking through the sky, and I took it for a good omen. I told the boys to make wishes, but to keep them to themselves.

The Amtrak train didn’t leave Columbia for New London until 4 am. We got to the station about 1:00 am, and we watched tv (Conan; some poker show---why do people watch that crap?). Chimo fell asleep on the benches (and provided much entertainment, as he slept in a variety of unusual poses and talked in his sleep). Our train was on time; the south-bound passengers had to wait a couple of hours because a car had blocked the rails. It was roomy and pretty comfortable, but the trip it would constitute the second half of forty-eight hours of no sleep for me, because I am a worry-wort and I just can’t sleep well when I am watching the boys. It is also rather uncomfortable to recline in the seats when you are as long as I am. I will one day, hopefully, get to experience a sleeper car. The boys were quite excited; they explored a little, but mostly sat quietly looking out the window or playing video games. We ate in the dining car the next morning and for lunch as well. In the snack car they played cards and games with some other boys after lunch; I sat and worked on the NYT crossword and read a little of Burke's Last Car to Elysian Fields. I would have tried the dining car, but the food was way too expensive for what you got. We just had hotdogs, instead, supplimented by goodies and drinks I had brought along.

We arrived in Washington at about 3:30 pm. Right away I knew we were not in Dixie any more (although technically I guess Washington is still in the South), because I ended paying $40 to check my bags! What a rip. We walked over and caught about an hour and a half of exhibits at the National Museum of American History. We saw the flag that inspired the "Star Spangled Banner"; visited an exhibit dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, that included such things as his top hat and death masks; viewed Judy’s ruby slippers; saw the original Kermit the Frog and Oscar the Grouch; walked around an exhibit focusing on Americans at war. Once Chimo went into a room that had mannequins only, and he was trying to touch one, and I asked, "What are you doing?" And he said "Checking for sentient beings." I just smiled. [If you wonder about that statement, you obviously don’t watch Star Trek.] At the portion focusing on Lexington & Concord, a blown-up portion of a newspaper listed killed and wounded. I pointed out the name "John Tidd," and Chimo says, "Dad, I never knew someone in our family was historical."

As we toured the Washington mall, I could not but help notice how many really pretty women were walking about, as well as the diversity. We trudged over to the Washington Monument, the grounds slick with ice and leftover snow, then past the WWII memorial, and checked out the Lincoln Memorial. It is awe-inspiring to stand there looking up into Lincoln's glowing white marble face. It is beautiful. The weather was bitterly cold and the wind was really biting. Both boys whined a lot, which surprised me, since they wanted to get to snow. Joey asserted that it was the wind that bothered him: "and the wind doesn't blow in Connecticut." Hmmmmm. . .he must have been there in a previous life. We caught a cab (driven by an engaging Ethiopian man) back to Union Station, where we had (expensive) pizza and Haagen Dazs ice cream and looked at the shops. Chimo insisted that we repeatedly ride the long escalators. I'm sure the mall police were getting tired of seeing us make our circuits. We watched the Galludent University students (many of them bedecked with wildly colored hair) speak with their hands, as well as took in some other colorful characters (such as a guy sitting with a gold-painted oriental-looking hat). We eventually got tired of walking about and decided to stay in the boarding area. Then it was time to reboard. We left Washington at about 10pm and arrived in New London at about 5:40 the next morning.

Patty, my sis-in-law, put us up. They have a really nice place in Quaker Hill; their backyard is basically a hill that towers over the house. She let me lay down to get some sleep, while the boys got outside and played in the snow. It was their first time in snow that was deeper than about an inch. They threw snowballs, shoveled, and slid down the hill. The ice was really treacherous. Mostly I relaxed and recuperated on their couch after I managed to raise myself from the dead. The boys and Patty went shopping and brought back pizza. We thought about visiting a casino (which I had never done), but no one was feeling up to it, so we aborted that notion. Didn’t get to spend hardly any time with Paul’s kids in the end. They were in and out of their rooms or off with their friends. Chatted sports with Andrew for a little. Tat & Iliana were in & out, and didn’t even come back to see us off (while sleeping over at their friends' houses). I glimpsed Elijah a few times. Mostly I played with the motley collection of international dogs (one from Puerto Rico [Red], another from Greece [Baby Girl], and the newest member of the group, a small cocker), and camped out on the couch. and then after the boys went to bed, Patty and I watched Die Hard, with a Vengeance and chatted into the night. The next morning the boys surprised me with some really nice birthday presents. Then we went and toured the Submariner’s Museum next to the base and walked through the USS Nautilus, the atomic-powered submarine that first went under the polar ice cap. My dad had served on subs and had ridden aboard the Seawolf while he was a cadet. Then Patty gave me the truck they are lending me (a really nice thing for them to do), and we were off.

Somehow I got screwed up coming into New York; I couldn’t see the signs because of glare, and we ended up driving on 278 instead of 95. New York drivers are scary. But the boys got a couple of glimpses at the Statue of Liberty. I ended up paying $15 in tolls just to escape New York. Then we had to go down through New Jersey, suffering additional tolls, and you don't really get to see anything either. Food was way too expensive. We made it down to Richmond before stopping at around 10 to stay at a hotel. We were up at 8 the next morning and on our way, pulling into Columbia at about 5 pm. The boys insisted on stopping at least once at a McDonald's playground, though in this case they discovered these free video games and spent most of their time on those. And we had one of my trip traditions. . .a stop at Kentucky Fried. Overall a nice trip, though would have liked to stay up there for a few more days. And I wish Paul had been there.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! $ 40.00 for bag? $ 15.00 for tolls? That's insanity. Glad I live in a small town.