Our Wednesday, New Year's Eve, started with a few rough objectives. One was that bunny_hugger and I would trade Christmas presents, which we had agreed would be more fun in person a week late than on time but over the Internet. Another was getting something to eat, which we did at the Jersey Mike's next to the Mexican restaurant because it was conveniently located and makes a good sandwich. As we got going there were snowflakes, and it threatened to become a non-trivial snowstorm, which might threaten the other big objective: going up to my brother's and his wife's for a little New Year's gathering.
As a sort of preliminary present I'd picked up a mighty cute plush rabbit, and didn't really know just how to wrap it up. So I tucked it into a gift bag, as if it were just peeking out, and set it in my car so that when she opened the door she'd find it peeking back up at her. This may sound a little twee, but it also worked beautifully well.
Still, there were the snowflakes, and they kept falling, and over the course of dinner we did both keep checking the parking lot. I worried about whether the snow might be bad enough to justify cancelling visiting my brother and sister-in-law, as they're about an hour away and I was already wary enough about driving on New Year's Eve. But the flurrying, even as it grew pretty intense at times, came to a calm stop and didn't need us to stop driving any.
We did have an extra side trip as bunny_hugger needed a prescription refill, and I had pointed out the night before a Drug Fair drugstore. I'd had a good impression of Drug Fair because sometime back around second or third grade when I was experimenting with learning how to develop photographic film we got a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from another store in the chain. Somehow that I was able to get a bottle of hydrogen peroxide for my little film experiments left me happy with the franchise, even though to the best of my knowledge I'd never been back to a Drug Fair since then, and I don't think I ever actually developed any film into a recognizable form. (Well, I developed some film for a Modern Physics laboratory, taking my own hydrogen spectrum results, but the university provided the peroxide. And film. And hydrogen.)
Since she'd realized she needed the prescription late and knew of this store, she got the refill information directed electronically over to there. We went to the store and in the pharmacy department very mildly baffled the staff there at the logical problem of having a refill from a person who'd never set foot in any store of the chain before ever. And who gave her address as being in Michigan. Apparently they don't get a lot of tourist traffic here. While waiting for the refills we looked at the merchandise with the most remarkable items being the back massagers which looked like every prop ever on Star Trek: Voyager and the curled-up hedgehog-like foot massagers which looked like every prop ever on Deep Space Nine. We also admired the really overstuffed candy bars, and in one of the vending machines of the vestibule, the iPod nanos and supporting equipment.
To exchange Christmas presents we figured it was best to go to my parents' home (my parents were spending New Year's with a friend's on Long Island), where the cats discovered bunny_hugger with the enthusiasm that cats always show the allergic. I also remembered, belatedly, to top up the Christmas tree's water and spilled only a little of it onto the floor, and turned on the recently-repaired fireplace. In front of the tree we sat up, and I set one of my gifts for her into just enough of a puddle to soak the paper although mercifully the gift itself was untouched, and before we quite knew it, the power went out.
This produced the discovery that the fireplace only needs the electric on for ignition and not once the fire is going, which is quite good as it was after sunset, and overcast anyway, with a strong breeze going, and I was pretty sure I'd left my flashlight in my car. (My father got some flashlights for Christmas, but only my father could have located them.) We had just got up off the floor and were looking around by the light of the fireplace --- and talking happily about the fact we had turned it on --- when the power came back and a dozen electronic devices whined for attention and time-setting. I did set the oven clock but left the rest of the electronics to fend for themselves. (The ancient VCR somehow picks up the time from some signal somewhere, but then it drops an hour every couple of days so that it averages out about three or four hours behind the true time. This is more convenient than setting it, though.) With light restored we traded presents, and her gifts to me were wonderfully thoughtful and just perfect.
I vanished just a bit to set things away safely, and after a bit of talking with bunny_hugger at my room's door about what we should do next --- which was to go up to my sister-in-law and her husband's place to see in the New Year --- I closed the door to my room. This act would have consequences.
My brother and his wife had hoped to meet bunny_hugger, and she was willing to meet them. The plan started out and as recently as the weekend before was simply that we'd come up there and spend time with them. Then it mutated into the idea of a small party with some of their friends, with everyone bringing a few items to snack on to fill things out. At dinner the night before my father said it was urgent I call my brother since plans had changed and the group might be smaller than we figured. It turned out that all his friends had been unable to attend, so, it was just going to be the four of us. So I could have skipped out on following all the plan changes for the week before.
However, my mother had bought some fruit platters and there was no good reason to not bring them up. And I also brought along a block of cheddar which I had bought with the idea that it should be too big for my father to finish off before I got started. It was indeed a big block of cheddar: two pounds. This is a lot of cheese. The size of it awed my brother and it became a topic of conversation for the night as there wasn't any chance we were going to eat that much cheese in any reasonable time. Even with it being sliced up and eaten on crackers all evening there wasn't much less of it.
Meeting my generalized siblings went at least as well as meeting my parents had, despite the danger that both of them would certainly be able to hear anything we said, and we had conversations which ranged from how long we've known each other to staring in bafflement as whoever it was hosting the Fox network's New Year's Eve program interviewing what appeared to be a Sontaaran warrior in Times Square. Allegedly the interviewee was one of the guys from The King Of Queens, but I'm skeptical. Of course, it was a cold night and people were bundled up tight so maybe it was just padded, air-encapsulating clothes. But I'm sticking with the Sontaaran view. We also spent time feeling bad for Dick Clark, who really doesn't look good, and mocking Ryan Seacrest mercilessly.
So we had a fine time communicating, and my sister-in-law showed that she knew how to make a real proper fire in a wood-burning fireplace despite a slightly slow start, the sort of talent which bunny_hugger's family didn't think existed east of the Appalachians. With that and with a couple of episodes of Get Smart --- my brother got the complete series, all five (or so) seasons, for Christmas --- we reached the point when it was getting well past midnight and into the new year and also where bunny_hugger was starting to feel allergic symptoms to my sister-in-law's one cat. (She cleans relentlessly as her husband is allergic, and my brother loves his wife dearly.)
We had anticipated an awful night on the roads and so chose to go home by the second-longest of the compelling routes. The reasoning for that path, though, was that it went along one highway that didn't go quite near enough any bar or residential districts to suggest there'd be a lot of reckless drivers, and then turning over to an Interstate which didn't run from near anything to near anything else. Other roads were more direct but also had things like college campuses in the way. I was bracing myself for at least some patches of defensive driving.
What neither of us anticipated is what we got: nothing. There were almost no other cars on the road. Maybe we chose the path well, but I've been on this same route about the same time of night driving home from their place in the past and it wasn't so dead then. There were significant parts of the drive I was able to put my high-beams on. The only odd behavior at all was on the Interstate stretch when I noticed the lone car behind us stop gradually creeping up behind us --- I stick to the speed limit and expect to be overtaken often --- and instead started falling back, farther and farther, until he disappeared a couple miles before exit 21. This was about when I realized that I'd left the leftover cheese with my sister-in-law.
And so I dropped off bunny_hugger at her hotel, and we thought of how happy we were to see the year in together like this. When I got home I called my sister-in-law, as promised, to assure her we had gotten home safely and that she could now go to sleep with a clear conscience. And that she could make of the cheese what she willed. I suggested big macaroni. She was charmed by bunny_hugger.
And then I opened my bedroom door, to see racing out of it the youngest kitten. She evidently snuck in while the door was open that afternoon and become trapped while my mind was otherwise and fully occupied. She also clearly wanted out as she had ripped tiny shards of carpet up from underneath the door (there's not that metal plate thing that covers where flooring goes from wood-like tiling over to carpet). And she'd been there roughly ten hours. Well, I'd wanted her to keep out of the room. Mercifully, considering I'd started closing my bedroom door and banishing her from my room because she'd picked up an obnoxious urinating habit, she hadn't peed on anything that I could find. There's a moral here and I don't know what it could be.
Trivia: Duke Ernst II made Julius Reuter the Baron de Reuter of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1871, following Reuter's spending of 10,000 forins to satisfy the land requirement in Coburg. Source: The Power of News: The History of Reuters, Donald Read.
Currently Reading: A Storm In The Port: Keeping The Port of New York and New Jersey Open, Alex F Lechich. It's an historical narrative about how proposed changes in the testing procedures for dredged silt resulted in delays and administrative confusion at the Ports of Newark and Elizabeth through much of the 1990s as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Authority, and a gaggle of related organizations fired off memoranda and the occasional federal lawsuit. And yet somehow the story is a little bit dry and impersonal.