Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Whirlwind Whistler Weekend

We only went for two nights—not quite long enough—but it was a great trip all the same. We came up with the idea last April because we see N&K, Ian’s brother and sister-in-law, on average about 3 times per year. Is it because they live far away? Only if you consider two miles to be far. Sigh. Anyway, a planned weekend, where we have meals and leisure time together, seems to be a great option for us (a hint into why we see each other so rarely: we had to plan almost five months in advance to find a weekend that worked for us all).

Highlights of the trip:

N&K sharing the driving, in their ultra-fancy and ultra-comfortable Acura, so I could knit the entire time and not have to be behind the wheel through Everett, which has really become the quicksand, the tar pit, the black hole of I-5.

Meandering around entirely pedestrian-zoned Whistler Village.

Hiking with Ian along the nature trail to Lost Lake. Arriving at the lake and finding a parking lot, a manicured lawn, and dozens of high school girls in bikinis. Well, I’m not sure that the bikinis were a highlight.

The dog beach at Lost Lake, complete with off-shore float, itself complete with a doggy-ramp so Rover can climb out of the water and rest. 30 or so dogs swimming.

Lying by the pool reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. An excellent book.

Tasty food.

Great company.

The official Canadian Royal Mounted Police gift shop.

Finding nine cans of San Pelegrino Chinotto soda (it's really good! If you like weird sodas!)

and my personal favorite:
sipping Gibsons and champagne cocktails at the Westin Hotel’s FireRock Lounge, while knitting. Heaven.

Berkshire Bliss

One of my dear friends got married in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts on August 19th. This is one of the girls from my Memorial Day Weekend trips, and all of us made it to the weekend’s events, including Ian and me who set five alarm clocks before our 6:30am flight and didn’t even sleep through the first one, and C, who came with beautiful 2-week-old Avery. Yes, that’s not a typo. Even L and S made it, although Continental did everything in their power to keep that from happening. It’s a long, bitter story, but the upshot is, or rather upshots are: 1) don’t fly into Newark, but 2) really, really don’t fly Continental. We were on Delta, on the other hand, and had a lovely time—flight attendants were friendly, we got food and movies even in steerage, people went out of their ways to fix our seat assignments, which disappeared without exception before each of our four legs of flight. It turns out that at least some of my phobia of flying has to do with my feeling of being a target. And a flight from Seattle to Cincinnati didn’t seem all that threatening to me, and the 50-passenger Comair flights from Cincinnati to Albany seemed entirely safe. Until this Sunday morning, that is.

But I digress.

Anyone who’s traveled in the Berkshires in the summer (or, probably, any time of year), knows that it’s expensive. It’s also aggressively quaint, full of ancient tree-covered hills and winding roads connecting 300-year-old towns nestled all snug in river valleys and curves of topography. It’s the home of Tanglewood, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra spends its summers. James Taylor lives in Lenox, one of the larger villages. It’s also the vacation destination of every upper middle class family in New York and Boston that doesn’t go to the Hamptons or the Cape. A motel room runs at least $170/night.

To save money, and also because we like each other, we Memorial Weekend girls and our various partners and/or gay husbands rented a house instead. This was a much better deal for the 10-12 of us, at $1800 for the entire week, except that weeks invariably run Sat-Sat in vacationland and many of us were arriving on a Thursday. I found a property that had both the main house, however, and a small cottage as well, and the owner agreed to let us have the small cottage for Thursday and Friday nights—we’d basically be camping—and the large house until we left town (which was two nights before the end of our week, so she got a good deal, too). What I will say about the cottage is that it was definitely rustic . . . and that if Continental had actually gotten L&S to Albany Thursday night as they were supposed to, instead of closing the jetway door in the girls’ faces as they approached from their other Continental flight (this is literally true), it would’ve been a tight squeeze.

I had a moment of confusion at 5:15 Friday morning when I heard, from the sleeping loft Ian and I were sharing, CNN radio start up very loudly directly down from me, where B was sleeping on one of the couches. “I know B’s a lawyer,” I thought with irritable sleep-muddled logic, “but does he have to listen to the news right now?” I eventually figured out that he must still have his earplugs in and be sleeping through the preset alarm, and I stumbled down the ladder, almost pitching head-first onto the pine floor, to turn it off myself. “Goddammit!” B gasped out as I approached, and flailed for the off switch. A couple hours later, Ian and I woke up for good and slipped out of the house to celebrate our own 5th anniversary with breakfast alone before the weekend’s events swept us up.

The wedding was one of those awesome affairs including nail appointments, a casual rehearsal dinner, short but lovely ceremony followed by a cocktail reception (full bar!) and then dinner (all vegetarian and really tasty, particularly the squash blossoms filled with white bean paste) and dancing and a multi-tiered cupcake “cake”, then a brunch and badminton tournament the next morning at a family farmhouse—so all the guests really had time to get to know each other/get reacquainted. And in our down time, once we moved into the large house and had space to lounge, we ate cheese and crackers and fresh fruits and vegetables and crepes (S brought two crepe pans and a chef’s knife in her luggage . . . TSA obviously checked her bags) and drank beer and wine, and talked endlessly with each other, and talked endlessly with shockingly verbal Paige, now the almost-three-year-old big sister, and watched Avery learning how to observe (“This person’s face is different from that person’s face,” her eyes seemed to say, staring from me to L and back again), and practicing her proto-smile.

And then a last meal with the blissful newlyweds (who received a lot of cast-iron cookware, considering their Brooklyn walk-up).

And then home, to start our own sixth year of (still blissful) marriage.

Falling Behind

I’ve been gone the last two weekends, for a wedding in western Massachusetts and a getaway with Ian’s brother and sister-in-law in Whistler, and I’ve so far completely failed to write anything about either. But I do have some things to say, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Late Breaking News

It turns out that my ass is not, as I had previously assumed, made of spring steel. Over the last week, my tailbone has increasingly ached, to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore (at least without knowing what was causing the pain), and on Saturday morning Ian and I went to the emergency room. After 8 hours (my problem was clearly not a crisis and there were, in fact, crises going on that day), X-rays, and blood tests, we were finally discharged with the diagnosis Old Fracture. This means that it’s not currently broken, but it was (presumably when I somersaulted over the head of Sikem last May) and I have evidently strained the new tissues around the area, so it’s causing me pain. Particularly when I go to the bathroom, but not, in fact, so much the rest of the time, except during the process of standing up or sitting down.

Contributing factors to the pain could include 1) the active summer I’ve spent: kayaking, riding, throwing around hay, and restarting Pilates, and 2) the fact that my hormones, chemically dormant for 5 years, are starting to reassert themselves, which could affect the tissues. It seems that all I can do is be careful, and not get constipated, and take Ibuprofen if I need something for pain. I said to the doctor, who was very tired and appeared to be about 7 months pregnant, that I didn’t have any riding lessons scheduled for the near future and she said “No. You will not ride a horse until this doesn’t hurt at all.”


Detroit Follow-up

Yes, folks, we did make it. The third person we spoke with once we got to SeaTac finally offered to let us each pay $25 to reserve space on the evening non-stop from Seattle to Detroit, and was surprised no one had given us the option before. (note: if you ask for stand-by, be prepared to stick with your current routing. And don't expect an airline grunt to think outside the box. Ask to pay some small fee instead.) We even got a window and a middle seat, and so were in perfect position to enjoy the spectacular light show taking place over Duluth as we passed (the pilot conscientiously avoided flying directly through the electrical storm). It was so fantastic, in fact, flash after flash, lightening ripping through the clouds in jagged bolts, that a flight attendant got on the radio and admonished us all to turn off our reading lights and look out the window! Which virtually everyone did. It was really amazing, and we only caught a little turbulence at the end, right before landing in Detroit, where it was 12:40 am. This was 8 hours after Ian and I had intended to arrive, before (evidently) choosing to sleep in, in our own beds, instead, so instead of blearily collecting our car, we checked into the new Westin hotel that is right in the terminal, and had a blissful mini-vacation, just the two of us.

The next morning we picked up our rental car and drove to Ann Arbor, which, from what we could see in our two days driving around the Detroit area (which, granted, doesn’t really give it a fair opportunity to impress), really is the best place to go in Michigan. By far.

We stayed with my linguistics friend G and his Swedish wife A, who are charming and interesting hosts, and whose small apartment holds even more books than our house (though not by much, I think). They encourage the local wildlife, so we were treated to multiple birds (I couldn’t even identify one species if G hadn’t told me what they were), multiple squirrels, and even, to my alarm, a late-night skunk. I will say, the skunk is really an adorable animal. Particularly since it seemed to think the same of us, and wandered off without spraying. Houseguests and fish smell after three days, they say . . . but I think adding skunk to the mix might speed up that schedule a little.

We had a couple brief Eminem moments; one when we passed 8 Mile Road on the way to the wedding venue in Rochester, and the other after we returned home and realized that the wedding location was the same as Eminem and Kim’s most recent (and most recently failed) second nuptials. Meadow Brook Hall did not publicize their famous clients.

The wedding itself was beautiful, with the 3 bridesmaids in varying shades of purple to coordinate with the groom’s hair, and a collection of Carleton students I’ve seen now at four weddings (including my own), so I felt like part of the crowd.

The only bad part of the trip was arriving at the airport at 7:00am on Monday morning (or thereabouts) and finding that our seats together—one window, one center—had been switched to two center seats. Which meant we weren’t seated together. And there were no other seats available anywhere on the plane, except maybe one or two middles. It seems that, when we missed our flight Friday morning, our entire reservation had been un-confirmed. The attendant who put us on the replacement flight reconfirmed the rest of our reservation . . . but evidently not our seats. So we arrived after virtually everyone else had checked in online, and snatched up our good seats. This was incredibly distressing to me, up to the point where we actually boarded the plane, and the man sitting on the aisle next to me agreed graciously to switch with Ian.

And so it all worked out, and two more great people are enjoying newly-married bliss.