austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

And I'm living the life that I chose

Sunday would have to be our last day: bunny_hugger's flight home was Monday, and there was no way we could drive from Maine to Newark Airport in one day. Even if we were so optimistic as to think we could, the traffic problems driving up would have convinced us otherwise. In fact, we'd need to leave shortly after breakfast, after going around making sure we hadn't overlooked anything, and malloc1024 worried that I was missing a Superfriends DVD, which I was, but because I'd left it back in my room.

We had a few things to arrange, besides packing and making sure we had clear space for my car to struggle its way up and out the driveway. Most importantly, we'd be passing through the town where my other brother, the one member of the immediate family bunny_hugger hadn't yet met, lives; then, too, we knew that chefmongoose and partner were somewhere in Connecticut and we might possibly be driving near them even with our revised return plan, which was to not drive over the George Washington Bridge. (I still don't know why we didn't take the Tappan Zee in the first place.) Since we didn't have to be back to my home any time particular --- my parents would certainly not be sitting up waiting for us to appear, the way moxie_man and panacea1 did Thursday --- we could make the time to visit one, but both would be ... very challenging.

I actually did, for me, some complicated reasoning about this, including the consideration that my brother was really only predictably back home in central New Jersey for Christmas, sometimes Thanksgiving, while meeting chefmongoose could be set to any convenient date if he ever gets a day off ever again, ever, possibly at a con of sufficient gravitational pull. And I admit that I do have trouble remembering chefmongoose's schedule however often and patiently he explains it to me, but as I remember, he's never off, and he's working from about 1 pm to 2 am most days, and he sometimes gets (ironically) two hours Thursdays where he's allowed to step as much as 45 feet away from his workplace. It seemed enough more likely that my brother would be the less difficult meet-up that we picked that instead, trusting we might apologize to chefmongoose adequately somehow.

So we set out before noon, with a couple last cans of Moxie, and good wishes, and a teasing mention of a small amusement park in Saco with the state's only wooden roller coaster. The ride through the state looked radically different, with perfect daylight, and almost no fog, and only small moose squadrons keeping track on our movements. We returned to conversing with each other, partly over what we had experienced, partly over stuff-in-general (at one point, although I believe it was the drive up, we talked about city flags, noting Detroit's showing what's meant to be survivors comforting each other after the Great Fire of 1804 destroyed the city, but also bearing a resemblance to White Flight from riots of the 60s), and some of the time listening to the (abridged) audio book edition of Stephen Colbert's I Am America And So Can You, which adapts some of the text-based jokes to the audio format in a reasonably smooth manner.

We stopped at the first rest area in Massachusetts, to stretch and to phone my brother warning him we'd be there in about an hour. As I tried to explain to him just where we were, one of the attendants at the rest area's combined gift counter/information desk helpfully pointed out exactly where on the highway the rest stop was, although actually I was trying to figure out where I-95 intersected the Massachusetts Turnpike. Well, with a little more time stretching and looking over the coffee machines and examining the souvenir magnets we were back on the road and headed for Worcester.

bunny_hugger had brought her satellite navigation device, which would be very useful in finding my brother's house since all I really knew was that it was somewhere in Worcester. It turned out while the navigator gave me the impression his house was at the end of a street, it was actually opposite the corner, at the end of the T intersection, which left me far more disoriented than it should have. Still, we arrived just about on time, and I got to see my brother's apartment. My parents had visited a few months ago and described it as ``cozy'', by which they might have more accurately said ``is almost wide enough to lie down in'', but in a break with family tradition there were many horizontal surfaces not covered in stuff.

My brother had suggested going to a nearby restaurant serving Vegan, vegetarian, and meat-based foods (he's Vegan), and he lead us off in that direction along a path which took us through nine of Worcester's estimated 422 ± colleges and universities, none of which want to hire me. One of the first we walked through, in fact, had an historical plaque commemorating it as the location where on 12 June 1880 Worcester's Lee Richmond pitched the first perfect game (by the modern definition) of major league baseball, against the National League Clevelands [1]. I chided my brother for not mentioning he lived about a block away from this interesting spot, but he'd never noticed the marker. Tch.

[1] Many sources dub the Worcester team the ``Ruby Legs'' and the Cleveland team the ``Blues''. Neither name should be taken seriously; major league baseball teams did not have names until the 1920s, other than perhaps being the ``City Nationals'' or ``City Americans'', depending on the league. Many had nicknames, often assigned by local sportswriters, which grew until they turned into official names, but no print source called the Worcester team the Ruby Legs when the team still existed, and I'll bet neither did anyone call the Blues that then. Worcester's and Troy's National League teams serve as fine test cases for those who want to study the question of identity, something worth writing up someday.

My brother insisted he knew just where this restaurant was, although as our path took us up (modest) hills and down again, and in what seemed to be a zig-zag trail through residential and commercial zones and back again, bunny_hugger and I naturally began to tease that he was completely lost and we were in danger of wandering into Maine and being eaten by wolves. It wasn't all that long, but it was a walk of just the right length to give the jokes some punch, at least for us.

The restaurant was one my brother had taken our parents to, when they visited for Mother's Day, and while it's clearly a flexible place --- and even includes a little health-food store within the location --- it's also not really a place to go to on your own. It's the sort of restaurant where the bathroom fixtures are set in dark-lacquered wood, and polished stones are used as decorative elements. You can't feel comfortable popping into one with a paperback and nursing a large Diet Coke all afternoon. Add someone to talk to, though, and now you've got a good dinner setting.

Walking back wasn't nearly as long, it felt like, and we took a different route, which may have contributed to that sense of it being swifter. I did stop along the way to try buying a local newspaper, as I trusted that Worcester supported some kind of print media, but all I found was a copy of the Sunday Boston Globe, costing over $19.75 due to being outside the Boston market range, and which I would leave in my brother's apartment instead of taking to my father as proof we'd been away somewhere. We also passed a comic book shop that my brother described as odd, which attracted my eye since a cardboard cutout in front of the faded posters seemed to suggest that Popeye was on the cover of an Action Comics, contrary to my expectations; and in a small park near a lake which looked just right to have once been a trolley park we passed several pieces of arbitrary sculpture and a person haranguing a crowd of about six people resting among a dozen lawn chairs.

We spent some more time talking, back at my brother's apartment, including some discussion of respective union struggles (as bunny_hugger's university faculty was having a unionization vote, and my brother works as a researcher for labor projects), and how my brother celebrated Constitution Day last year by actually forcing the highway cop to get a warrant to search his car for alleged drugs (the judge ended up irritated at the cop, particularly as the result of the search was to prove that my brother didn't have anything suspect in his car), and so on until my brother was as convinced of bunny_hugger's charms as I am.

Still, we did need to get going, lest we never arrive back home, and we finally headed out to the second CD of Stephen Colbert and a path roughly akin to what we took on the way up, except that instead of diving down through the center of Connecticut we would take I-84, drifting roughly south and west toward the Tappan Zee Bridge. We would also pass a sign temptingly labelled, ``Amusement Park'', which we speculated might be that park that we remembered claimed to have been open continuously longer than any other and this description made perfect sense to both of us, until bunny_hugger pulled out the name we were thinking of: Quassy. It wasn't; actually, we were nearer Lake Compounce, near Bristol and the American Clock and Watch Museum. Later on we would pass Quassy, in Middlebury, and on finding that I took out my iPad to figure out just what we had seen earlier. Fortunately this was the stretch when bunny_hugger was driving, and she got a bit amusedly envious at how I was on the Internet now, wasn't I? Yes, but mostly because I was fascinated watching our little marker dot trawling across the map of the state.

A modern car has a highway range of around 400 miles. Mine, for example. We'd filled up about an hour before getting to the Maine Gathering; at about 60 miles per hour we could expect something like seven hours of driving time before having to refill. And yet as we approached the end of Connecticut the fuel tank was getting emptier and emptier ... but this was an Interstate, surely there would be some rest area somewhere along the line ... if not, there would be someplace we could turn off, surely, to get gas ... except that it was past 9 pm on a Sunday night ... but if we could get near the Tappan Zee we'd be on the Thruway and there are certainly plazas there which would be open ... but we weren't there yet ... and the low-fuel light was on ...

Well. Somewhere in the vicinity of White Plains, we were low enough on gas to be genuinely worried, and reprogramming the satellite navigator to pick out anyplace which sold gas. The first we tried was closed since it was the outer rims of New York City suburbs past 9:30 pm on a Sunday night. I took to the machine, trying to pick names that sounded like places which wouldn't close --- I longed for a Wawa, or even something that just promised ``24'' or ``7'', and found nothing --- and was nearby. Following a road which promised a couple of gas stations nearby, we found the first was closed and the second was open, just trying not to call attention to itself.

So we staggered out of the car for a last refueling and the chance to stretch and to look around a tiny gas station, for snacks and sodas which would keep us from being too faintly naggingly thirsty or hungry for the rest of the night. Though bunny_hugger had expressed dislike for the greater White Plains municipal region, I believe she was feeling warmer toward it now that we had less reason to fear being stranded in it.

We took the Saw Mill Parkway, a lovely little road from about 1930 when they hadn't quite got the idea of the limited-access highway worked out, which would be a fine and reasonably scenic road if it weren't 10 pm. We also had the nice view of the Tappan Zee Bridge at night, while driving over it; and while I intended to continue on I-87 through to the Turnpike, I turned off early and we ended up taking the Palisades Parkway down south. It was a harmless error, anyway, and one which let us see the George Washington Bridge by night, looking over at where we'd encountered our first real traffic jam, and at what a marvellous structure it is in that light and at highway speeds.

There were no further anecdotes on the way back, and we arrived back home sometime around midnight, ready to fall into bed after the successful road trip.

Trivia: While Lee Richmond is accorded a perfect game for pitching against the Cleveland National League team on 12 June 1880, it is unclear whether he may have hit any batters, as these were not recorded by the scorer then. Source: The Rules of Baseball: An Anecdotal Look at the Rules of Baseball and How They Came To Be, David Nemec.

Currently Reading: The Affluent Society, John Kenneth Galbraith.


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