Fall Break, 2000

Hmm. I had forgotten I ever wrote these reports. If I keep recycling, it looks like I’m creating. (You know this is really old since it says “both pets”.) Also, it’s been long enough ago that it’s funny. Now. 

Fall Break 2000 highlights: Dad, son, step-mom. Two nights train, three nights hotel, two nights in-laws, no injuries, no arrests, both pets survived bunking at the vet’s. Who could as for more?

Fall Break was a calculated risk – in retrospect, with so much to go wrong, it’s a wonder we’re all still speaking to each other. J. R, Virginia and I decided to try to do something that would make each of us happy in the same week, so we took the train (me) to New York City (J. R.), and then drove out to the New Jersey countryside to visit my in-laws (Virginia).

The train ride was fun – we had the family car from here to Chicago and two rooms from Chicago to New York. It was the full Amtrak experience – we were almost eight hours late out of Chicago since there was a power failure a few hours before we arrived, and the train yard where they assemble the trains was in the powerless zone. Since we were that far behind, we went down the Hudson riverbank (the one portion of the trip I had been selling since early March) in the dark. Sigh. Still, the food was good, the crew pulled an extra shift and served an extra meal without complaining (the staff was pretty impressive, given the stress of the extra time worked), so it worked out well. I thought a power failure in the city was a novel excuse for being late, as well.

New York is still New York – like London, there just isn’t enough time to do it justice, so you will always leave feeling you missed something important (and you have.) We spent most of one day at the Museum of Natural History, and probably could have spent the week there. The Museum of Radio and Television has gotten tired of people requesting the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and just shows it on the big screen regularly.

Here’s an exercise the next time you’re in NYC – go to the Museum of Radio and TV, and check out your favorite TV show from childhood. They have thousands of shows online – you pick four you want to see on a Mac on one floor (they have a room full of Macs!), and then you go downstairs to the viewing room to watch your selections in a “private viewing booth.” (Having spent some time in my misspent youth on 42nd street, I think they may want to rethink that particular term.) The cool part for me was that the shows are intact – when you see the Beatles on Sullivan, you see Sullivan, commercials, other acts and all. It really gives you a sense of the era. (It also gives you a sense of priority – the Beatles finish their last number, take their patented bow, and Sullivan brings out the juggling act to close the show.) J. R. thinks we must all have been dweebs if the commercials had any effect on us, at all. Some of them were pretty cheesy, come to think of it.

We also saw “Stomp” which was a very, very good show, after getting tickets from TKTS about two hours before curtain. I really didn’t expect to get any tickets, but I thought we should go through the motions, since I really wanted to see a show while we were in town. Then, they had them at 25% off. This means the little fart has now seen off-Broadway theatre, so that’s one more thing crossed off his list.

Time spent with the in-laws was a lot of fun. We’re slowly adapting to each other, since I was on less good behavior than last trip, and may actually be myself soon 🙂 Besides, J. R. was the center of attention this trip, so I just hid in the background.

Here’s why I like my in-laws: Her sister decided it would be really funny to take a photo of Virginia with one of her chickens, so Basil the budgie would think Virginia was cheating on him. First of all, what sort of twisted mind would think to blackmail a person with a bird? Secondly, who else could make Virginia (“AAIIGH! Get that thing away from me!!”) pose with a chicken?

Here’s why J. R. likes Virginia’s family: her sister gave him an 8×10 copy of Virginia’s chicken photo.

We flew home into the Sunday thunderstorm in Dallas, circled forever, ran low on fuel, got diverted to Austin in time for its thunderstorm, and got home only six hours late. Let’s see, six hours late on a four-hour plane flight, with one extra bag of snack mix, versus eight hours late on a thirty-hour train trip, with an extra steak dinner. Hmm… Why do I fly?

Stuttgart, 2000

For those who would like to see if I’ve gotten crankier over the years (that would be affirmative), here’s some notes I found from a trip to Stuttgart in September of 2000. This was not my first trip, since I was staying in the wrong city (and knew it), but I was going over every few months for a couple of years. Some of this is dated (the furnace was replaced, Rose is gone, and missed), but I probably still have a lot of the same opinions. I wish I could remember the hotel’s name – I remember I had dinner from the vending machine most evenings. 

Stuttgart – September 30, 2000

I’m back from Germany. I really don’t like surviving for a week in a country that doesn’t speak English, even though I knew going into this week, that was going to be a challenge. (Aside: What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Tri-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.)

All the bloody hotels in Stuttgart were booked, so I ended up in Boeblingen (which I can’t spell correctly here, since you need one of those umlautty things over the “o”), in a nice little place in the middle of an industrial park. Oh, joy. A twin bed, no room service, no restaurant, and three channels of English on the cable: CNN (“blah, blah, blah”), UK SkyNews (“blah, blah, blah” with a British accent) and SkySports (24-hour Olympic coverage.) So, I watched the Olympics.

I’ve always been rather prejudiced against the Olympics, especially the summer games – most of the events seem pretty pointless (if you can’t do dire bodily harm to yourself, is it really a sport?), and everyone knows that all those “amateurs” aren’t. Still, it beats watching “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or “Married… With Children” dubbed into German (but not by much.)

Some of the highlights:

Diving: It takes a UK announcer to say what others only think – there was one of the women’s entrants and when she first walked to the platform, I thought “She’s a bit heavy for this.” My Politically Correct genes then kicked in, and said “A) Who am I to talk? and B) How hard is bloody diving?” Then, the announcer mentioned that she really was too heavy to be diving and really should lose some weight to get her scores up. Amazing.

Synchronized diving: What co-dependent idiot came up with this concept? One anorexic body flipping into a pool isn’t enough? Now, I need two of them?? If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do they all have to?

Diving: Here’s the only reason I can watch diving (besides the ever-present nipple scans during the women’s event) – I am always hoping against hope one of the divers who is hopelessly behind in the last round will climb to the platform, run off screaming “CANNONBAAAAAALLLLLL!” and drench the judges’ table. Is that too much to ask? Sure, the degree of difficulty isn’t much, but how can you screw up a cannonball?

Race walking: One of the race walkers was thrown out of the race. Disqualified as she approached the finish line. For jogging. I never thought I would see the day that jogging was going too fast. But really, now. Race walking? Can’t you just make the bit of extra effort and run?

Gymnastics: “I’m dancing to the music. Now, I’m going to stop for no reason, run across the mat and throw myself into the air. Now, I’m dancing again.”

Coxless rowing: Shouldn’t that be women only? Eunuchs, perhaps?

I think the high point of the week was seeing Yanina Korolchik win the women’s shot put. First, she was the most decent looking of the bunch(she reminded me of Ms. Lewinsky for some reason (did the President offer to give her the medal?)) Second, she beat the Russian. By a lot. That was pretty funny.

You know, that’s one of the major problems with the Olympics today. With the end of the Cold War, there aren’t any bad guys anymore. When Team USA beat the Russians in hockey in 1984, that was a defining moment. When you beat the Russians now, you just feel sorry for them. The Olympics need the bloodlust returned. Sports needs bad guys.

How do you make the French runners perform better? Park a Panzer tank at the starting line.

Oh, yes. While I was gone, Rose blew up the furnace in the house (“It’s not my fault!”). We’re now in day three of the installation, and the inspector should be here next week, so we can turn it on. I need a pint. (At least the soda machine in the hotel had beer in it.)