All Over The World

Or at least the East Coast.

It’s been a busy month ambling from place to place, and it’s rare I see a weekend at home.

Boston/Salem 
In early October, Lexcie and I headed up to Boston for a weekend so he could check on his condo. We spent a good part of the day in Boston itself, finding ourselves smack dab in the middle of a political marching band festival, eating the best burrito I’ve tasted at Anna’s Taqueria in Davis Square, checking out MIT, and browsing a whole bunch of thrift stores. Our most amusing find had to be a box of Titaroni Booby-Shaped Pasta in the Salvation Army store. I don’t know which was more disturbing – the fact that the Salvation Army was selling the box, or that an old Asian woman was reading the ingredients and actually considered buying it. Lex also bought me the book Symmetry: The Ordering Principle, to further feed my OCD in having everything lined up correctly.

On the way home, we went to Salem, a trip I fondly made back when I was 13 or so. However, 12 years ago, I was blissfully unaware of how tourist-trappy the town actually is. Going from Halloween-themed store to Halloween-store got old after a while, and we didn’t feel like paying an arm and a leg for any of the attractions. We then decided to go on a quest for clam chowder in a bread bread bowl, but found out we were a week early. We instead bought way-overpriced corn dogs and ate them in the town cemetary. Sounds a bit sacreligious, but I’m sure the settlers would have liked a good corn dog back in the day.

While heading back to New York, we stumbled upon an amazing sunset on Route 20, and found a strangley-yuppified Dunkin’ Donuts (wait, make that Dunkin’ Donuts Place) in or about Marlborough, Mass. I even got to eat at a Cracker Barrel for the first time ever, but no Denny’s yet – Lex said we’ll wait until we go to the Midwest.

Washington, D.C.
A week later, I had to go to D.C. for a work conference. This year, instead of taking Acela down, I flew on Southwest, and have officically earned my fly-free-to-wherever-Southwest-flies Rapid Rewards voucher. Score! However, this meant I had to take a taxi from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to my hotel on Dupont Circle. Last year, when I took a taxi from Pennsylvania Avenue to BWI, it was a flat $40. However, the taxis have since gone to metered fares – and it cost me (well, my company) $97. I’m thinking to myself, that’s not going to look too good on my expense report – until my collegue informed me that she had me beat by $10.

Although our conference was at the J.W. Marriott Pennsylvania Avenue, another convention in the district meant all rooms – and most other Downtown – were booked. The only room available was at the Jurys Washington Hotel, which turned out to be a much better than the overpriced, claustrophobia-inducing J.W. Marriott. The only problem I had with Jurys was that they tried to charge me for a bottle of Johnny Walker Red from the mini-bar. I never took anything out, but opened the mini-bar to check if it was a fridge. Apparently, shaking the door sets an inventory laser off, and it was common enough that they took the charge off my room without question.

The conference went well, and may possibly have been the best I’ve been to so far – but that may just be because I understand commercial real estate a lot better than I did during last year’s conference. I even had time to meet up with Melissa, her fiance Ben, Chris and his girlfriend Nicole. In fact, with both meetings, we ate at Nooshi – my D.C. “I can’t decide where else to eat” location. It was there I rediscovered my love for Philadelphia rolls (I’ve had them about three times since then).

Besides the taxi ride, one major difference from last year’s trip is that I didn’t have a rental car and did it entirely by public transportation. I forgot how deep the Metro’s Red Line is, and almost made myself dizzy on the escalators at the Dupont Circle station. Instead of spending another $97 on a taxi back to BWI, I decided to take MARC instead. It was a double-decker train, and I had my heavy suitcase with me. The conductor failed to tell me I was in the wrong car, and when we pulled into the BWI station, everyone started yelling at me to go to another car. In rushing with the heavy bag, I fell and banged up my knee. Usually when I fall, I laugh, but this time I cried – I was frustrated, tired and just wanted to get home. I denied medical help at the scene, and a nice man helped me and my suitcase to the shuttle bus.

By the time I arrived at Southwest’s terminal, my knee was swelling up and it was difficult to walk. I asked the TSA agent checking boarding passes if there was a first-aid station at the terminal, but apparently there isn’t, and he’d have to call in paramedics to ice my knee. I decided it wasn’t worth it, found some Tylenol, and elevated it while I waited for my plane. The flight home was uneventful, although we did get peanuts, unlike the flight before us – someone had a peanut allergy, so the whole plane was stuck with pretzels. Sucks for them. The knee kept me home from work the following day, but it healed quickly.

Albany
Last weekend, Lexcie, me and our friends Mike and Will decided to take Amtrak’s Adirondack service from Albany to Port Henry, NY in order to ride the “Great Dome” viewing car while it was on the East Coast. The Albany-Port Henry terminus pairing was the cheapest and most time-effective way to go. We drove Ratsmobile into Manhattan early to pick up Mike and Will in front of the Payless (Lex’s favorite meeting spot) on 34th and 8th. I am proud to say that I only freaked out once during the city drive, which is quite an accomplishment (I hate traffic and have this inane fear of always getting side-swiped – not head-on, mind you).

We arrived in Albany with a decent amount of time before catching the train, and we had strategically placed ourselves on the platform to get a good seat in the dome car. However, it turned out they wouldn’t let us on until about Schenectedy. The car wasn’t as crowded as we thought it would be,  and it smelled like a basement from the 1950s (or what I imagine one to smell like). Despite unspectacular views, it was still fun.

We got off at Port Henry – a town so small that the train station doubles as its senior citizen center. I went into the station to use the restroom, only to find myself in front of older folks seated around a card table. I apologized, and said I thought it was the train station. “It is!” a woman replied. “We take care of the people who get off the train.”

We then decided to walk to the “downtown,” which was comprised of a courthouse smaller than my home, a town hall, a vacant car dealership and a Mobil station. There was an empty can of snuff on the ground, most of the locals had mullets and two people were selling fresh meat off the back of a box truck. Mike bought some elk, while the rest of us went for venison jerky. We then heard the return train toot and ran for it – it was the last train back to Albany that day, and we had no alternative plan if we’d missed it.

On the way back to Albany, we played cards in the snack car. Mike and Lex got into an argument over the games Hearts and Bullshit, which was a repeat epsiode of an argument between Lex and my friend Jim a few days before. I told Lex that he’d have to rename the game with his rules if he wanted to play that way. We wound up playing multiple rounds of Ninety-Nine and Big Two, since we all agreed on those rules. Mike left us at Albany, we stopped in Brewster for a while, and then dropped Will off in Manhattan. I only freaked out on the road twice. Still improving!

All in all, quite a busy month or so. Also went pumpkin picking/corn mazing, had an uneventful Halloween (costume was Groucho Marx glasses), attended Allicia and Rich’s engagement party in Brooklyn, played cards with Yuri and Jim at Massapequa Diner, and then later returned to Massapequa at at 3:00 a.m. Whew.

This weekend, I think, will actually be quiet. Thanksgiving is coming, and the whole fam damnily is coming over (that was my brother Aaron’s mouth slippage years ago). I love Thanksgiving – I can almost taste the sweet potato pie.

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