Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Visit Back East

Last Thursday I flew up to NY for my fraternity big brother's gay wedding (technically a civil union). Usually my dad picks me up at the airport, but he had left on a business trip that day, so my parents arranged for a car service to pick me up. The flight out wasn't too terrible. We were delayed at the gate for a while out of Houston, waiting for the inbound aircraft, but then we sat on the tarmac waiting for our turn to take off for a while due to bad weather. When we finally got off the ground it was 2 hours after we were scheduled to leave.

Friday my mom and I went to Purchase, saw Andy Goldsworthy's "East Coast Cairn," part of his "Three Cairns," at SUNY Purchase. Then we went across the street to PepsiCo's sculpture gardens. I'm sure I've been years ago, but haven't been in quite some time and really enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed George Rickey's kinetic sculpture.
That night we had a real nice dinner at a favorite nearby restaurant. I had cod cakes for an appetizer, a German-style pork dish and lemon tart with raspberries for dessert. It was all delicious as always.

Saturday my mom went with a friend to a craft fair. I went to Storm King Art Center, but it took me a lot less time to get there than I had thought and when I got there, it was still a half hour before they opened. After driving around a bit to kill time, I parked and checked out the smaller pieces in and around the museum. I set out on foot for Andy Goldsworthy's "Storm King Wall," checking out the other large pieces along the way. I started along the wall at the wooded side where it winds through the trees and is really quite spectacular. The workmanship is exquisite and it's quite dramatic the way it splits and separates the trees. After following the wall to the pond's edge, I went around to the other side where it stands straight from the thruway, across the road before making a turn and diving into the water. After that walking my knee was starting to bother me so I just walked back to the parking area and waited for the tram to take me through the other side of the property and back to the museum.
I headed to New Jersey and got the hotel about 2, checked in and vegetated for a while. I got to the hall where they were having the ceremony and reception right at 5 and started in on the extensive microbrew selection. Almost immediately I was pressed into service as an official witness on the civil union license. There were several different groups of friends/family bunched together, none of which I belonged to, so for most of the time I was talking with the other two groupless guys, Doug's fraternity little brother, and a local friend of Mike's. At 6 we all went outside to the beautifully sunny, not too hot day for the actual ceremony. The clergy woman (not sure what denomination) did a nice job, didn't go on too long or anything. Back inside, dinner was buffet style with several dishes, tasted pretty good. After some more beers people were mingling more until the party started to break up about 9ish. I helped pack up the remaining beer to head back to the hotel. After a quick drink in the bar we went to someone's room to finish off the beer.

In the morning I was feeling pretty hung over and it was a lot later than what I had wanted. The radio was pretty complicated and I obviously didn't figure it out. Growing up I remember the ads for Old Bridge Township Raceway Park (Englishtown). It's quite distinct and it plays when you go to their website (racewaypark.com). I didn't grow up going to drag races, so I'd never been there, but when I realized that I would be in NJ the same weekend as the nationals, I had to go. I was about a half mile away stopped in raceway traffic at 11 when the first pair of top fuelers went. Fortunately (for me) racing didn't move too quickly and I saw the last couple pairs of dragsters standing in line near the finish line. Most of funny car had already gone by the time I got to the grandstands, however. After second round I went to check out the pits. It took me a little while to realize that the fuel pits are on the left side of the track and everybody else is on the right side of the track, which makes it kind of hard to get around and see it all. Plus since it was already well into eliminations a lot of teams were already packing up. I stayed until the finals and then ran out as quick as I could to beat the rush. I wound up a bit sun burned because I forgot sunscreen. The drive back to my parents' was pretty crappy. My GPS was trying to say that a US highway was quicker than the Parkway or Turnpike, so I stopped listening to it until the traffic volume picked up and slowed to a crawl (at best). Then it wanted to take me over the GWB, which is a nightmare any time. I forced it to take me over the Tappan Zee, but it took me through a bunch of bridge traffic anyway.

My mom normally babysits my niece on Mondays and my dad took the day off as well. We met my sister briefly, then went back to play for a while. We all went over to Stonecrop Garden, which is really beautiful. After walking around for a while we went back to the house and ordered a pizza from my favorite place in town. I was hungry and don't get many chances to have the genuine article and had three slices and a pepperoni roll.
Not being able to predict what traffic will be like around the airports, we left for my 7pm flight about 3:30. Traffic wasn't bad and we got there about 4:45. Because of bad weather in Houston, the checkin was a complete fiasco. People were trying to see if they could get on a different flight, checking on connections, etc., etc. Since elite flyers always get the next available kiosk/agent, the regular folks line didn't move for 45 minutes, except for letting people who weren't going to Houston use the kiosks normally reserved for those who already have their boarding pass. To top off the horrible wait, the air conditioning wasn't working in that area, so the temperature was almost as hot as some of the tempers. When I finally checked in the agent said there was an outside chance I'd make my connection, since it wasn't showing as delayed and my flight to Houston was already an hour and a half late and only an hour layover until the last flight to Austin. I essentially said "what are you going to do" and went to have a tankard of beer. After dinner and two more beers I went through security at 7:30, and it was record-settingly quick. There was nobody in line and I threw my bag and shoes on the conveyor and went right through. The inbound flight pulled up at about 8:20, so we didn't push back until about 8:50 and then had to get in line to take off. It was 9:30 before we actually took off. We landed in Houston at midnight and got right to our gate. I looked at the monitor and was not happy to see that it showed the next flight to Austin at 7:30 am, but I figured what the heck and went to the gate printed on my boarding pass. I had a hopeful feeling when I saw there were people at that gate, and tremendously relieved when they said that that plane was going to Austin. I was the last one on the jet bridge, but went in front of the standby passengers. There were obviously still lots of planes flying since it took almost 45 minutes of taxiing before we were in the air. We landed about 1:30 and after I got my bag and walked out the door I saw the airport bus I needed leave. So I had to wait to drop people off and come back for 15 minutes.

This morning my paper wasn't restarted like it was supposed to be. At work the AC work that was supposed to have been done over the weekend still wasn't finished so the whole building was hot. I gave up at 2 when it still wasn't working and went home to work remotely.

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