Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Doug, Chris and Scott

First of all, an observation. I work with a lot of women. They like to talk about clothing a lot. What they wear, where they obtain it, how much it costs them. "I'm wearing Ann Taylor right now..." says one woman across the room. "These shoes I ordered through the 9West website. I had to send them back three times before I got the right size. Can you believe that?"

No. No I can't. My shirt is from Fashion Bug, I bought my jeans at Target, and my boots are the nicest things on my body right now, from the New Balance Factory Outlet. My underwear? Strictly WalMart. I think, all told, my clothes on my body right now cost me less than 100 bucks. As opposed to the blouse that is being discussed right now, which most likely cost the wearer about that.

A blouse mind you.

I just don't understand why people spend so much money on clothing. To be honest, they look average. It's an office. We sit around all day. We go to meetings. We work on some computer stuff. For crying out loud, why dress to the fucking nines? I just don't get it. I could see if there were tons of people to impress. Account executives, VPs, CEOs... but we're all general worker bees here. It doesn't make sense.

General need for haute couture is something that baffles me. I have never had an interest in who is wearing what and who made it and how low/high it is cut. I'm not one who can pull off wearing any of this stuff, so to me it is just kind of out there. I like this picture though. Dig that hairdo!

I had lunch today with an old friend who I swear I haven't seen since 1987. We were in college together, he's a couple years older than I am. I dated his cousin and was very close to his brother while we were in school. Funny how things change but stay exactly the same for some people. This wonderful person is pretty much exactly the same as when I saw him last, compared to so many of our peers who have changed so much. We talked extensively about family, kids. He told me he was madly in love with someone in California at one point but didn't get much further into that. I'm dying to know.

I think he'd be a real catch. Smart (doctorate from Duke Univ), kind, charming, polite, too short for me and way too skinny. His side of the clan was that way. I like people taller than me with "ginchy buns," you could say. He doesn't fit that profile.

But he is still an amazing person to spend time with and talk to. I don't think Douglas knows him but they'd probably have a lot of fun talking. They would get right on into it arguing and discussing philosophy, literature, conservativism, Catholic Vs. Protestant stuff. Perhaps next is an invite to the Way Out Inn for dinner (and being annoyed by a 4 year old boy).

Tomorrow at about this time, I'll be in New York for Thanksgiving. Hard to imagine. I've done this drive so many times over the last two decades it seems like old hat. There have been some amazing adventures in my getting from Boston to Long Island, but the best of all time is Thanksgiving 1989. The year of the 12 hour trip. A trip that should take no longer than five hours, mind you. Here's what happened.

Wednesday, 9am.
We set out early that morning from campus, I picked up Scott and Doug in the 1970 Volvo. Sven the Mighty, the glorious green sedan, blue doors, rolling saddleshoe with Grateful Dead stickers in the windows. It was a chilly New England day, very bright sunshine, leaves all blown off the trees. Scott was heading for his grandmother's house in Oyster Bay or Syossett or something, not too far from my parents', so we figured it'd be great to all go together.

We crossed the state line into Connecticut on I-84, cruising right along, when my car engine started to make nasty grinding noises. Unsure what the deal was, we pulled over north of Stafford Springs and Doug checked under the hood.

Sven's fan had come loose, and was grinding against the radiator. We knew there was a service station just down the highway, Goodhall's Garage there on I-84 north for those familiar with the area, so we figured we'd stop there. It was a little past 10am. We figured they'd be able to fix it up, and we'd be on our way.

We pulled in, explained to the mechanic dude what was happening. He nodded in agreement, said it sounded like the fan clutch, and said he'd fix it. We went over to the Traveler's Rest restaurant, where they have "Food and Books." It is quite the place. A free book with every meal you buy. Most of the books are absolute shite mind you, stuff that got published and no one knows why, but there are real gems there, and you can find them if you dig.

We had some grub, and Scott grabbed a copy of "The Great Gatsby." We sat in the waiting area of the garage, freezing our asses off, all of 20 something years in age just giggling and reading TGG out loud. I distinctly remember a woman in a fur coat standing in the bright room, flooded with sunlight from the low angle of the sun, trying not to look at the three of us and trying not to laugh. We were ridiculously stupid and loud and having a great old time, sort of like the people on the Group W bench in "Alice's Restaurant.

The mechanic came back and told us he couldn't fix the fan because my car was so old he didn't have the part. He did say that as long as we kept the car moving, the air was cold enough to cool the engine, so we should have no problem getting where we were going. Hot damn, that sounded pretty darn good, so the three of us piled back into the Luxury Sedan from Sweden and continued our Jaunt Southwards.

We were kicking ass and making great time. No one was on the road, and there wasn't a cop to be seen for thousands of miles. It was pretty cool. Then the unthinkable. We hit New Haven, and got onto I-95. Traffic soon came to a complete standstill. Southbound to New York wasn't moving at all. Come to find out, down in Darien, which is just about 3 exits from the NY State line, a Connecticut State Trooper was writing a ticket on the side of the Northbound side of the highway, and he got hit by the side view mirror of a passing truck. He was killed, and every Statey in the State of Connecticut was at the scene, which explained the dearth of public safety presence in the Northern areas of the state.


Traffic Southbound, our side of the highway, was backed up from the scene to behind us in Milford, and traffic northbound was backed up from the scene back to almost New Jersey.

It was the biggest traffic stoppage on I-95 EVER, and we were stuck in the middle of it, with a car that was going to overheat if we stopped moving. Overheat and explode.

It was well before the movie "Speed," but I felt the same sense of urgency to keep the vehicle moving as Ms. Bullock did when she had to keep the bus moving or it would explode. When I saw that movie I laughed my ass off because all I could think of was Sven the mighty Bomb Volvo. The temperature gauge crept upward as traffic crept along, and I decided we had to do something I hated: use the breakdown lane.

We cruised down the breakdown lane to the next exit. The way the highways are set up in Connecticut is pretty cool. At most exits, you can go up the ramp, stop at the light, go across the overpassing road, and down the ramp back onto the highway. We did that for quite a few exits. Sitting at the lights, we'd scream at the temperature gauge to not rise any higher and gun it when the light changed to green. Moving was life -- it kept the car cool and protected its mighty innards from melting down.

We had to stop a number of times because the breakdown lane wasn't doing us all the good we needed. We made it pretty far in a few hours. A stretch of road that should take probably an hour to cover took about five. It was torture. We made it past Darien, past the accident, and traffic let up. We were looking at wide open road to the bridge to Long Island.

The Throg's Neck Bridge is always a major clusterfuck, and this day, with the flow of traffic pent up for so long back into Connecticut, millions and billions of cars had made it to this crossing's paltry few toll booths. We found our sorry lame asses backed up all the way the hell back to Rye. Damn. Just when we thought we were home free.

Everyone in New York drives in the breakdown lane, so there was no refuge to be found there. We crept forward, and made it to just north of the bridge, when we decided to stop for a good long stretch next to the Villa Barone Manor, a big giant catering hall, cheesy as hell in all it's rampant New Yorkness. Gaudy, ridiculous, very very Sopranos, very Italian, Very Bronx. (By the way, you HAVE GOT to follow that link to their website. Not only is it the funniest, cheesiest website ever, it plays Carly Simon's "Nobody Does it Better" in .wav format. I almost peed my pants laughing).

Wednesday, 6pm
We watched traffic limp past, and waited until the traffic flow was about 15-20 MPH going forward to the bridge. It was now dark. We were cold. It was after 6pm. Damn. Time to get moving. We hopped back onto the expressway, which was non-expressy, and limped along with the others, praying to God that the car wouldn't overheat and pop a hose or spew liquid auto-life guts all over the road. I didn't want to be featured in the every 10 minute "Shadow Traffic" report on 1010WINS, the New York 24 hour news radio station, "You give us ten minutes, we'll give you the world..." "This just in, an uglyassed green Volvo with blue doors loaded with three naive college students is blocking all lanes of the Southbound Throg's Neck Bridge just north of the tolls. Avoid this area at all cost, it is recommended you skirt over to the Williamsburg to avoid this SNAFU..."

We got through the tollbooth just as the temp gauge was redlining, and floored it to get that icy cold above-the-deadly-sound air rushing through Sven's body. I could almost feel him sigh with relief. We cruised over the Bridge, NYC on our right, bathed in her resplendent glory and glow, and we headed down the Clearview Expressway towards the Long Island Expressway.

Shadow Traffic informed us of a huge accident on the LIE (I so love how this road is abbreviated LIE. That so kills me...) so we decided to take the Grand Central Parkway to the Northern State Parkway to home. The GCP to the NSP as it were.

We bailed and ended up in some neighborhood at a red light clogged with traffic. All three of us screamed as we realized we'd turned too early and missed the GCP exit and were doomed. Screaming now, the three of us were unhinged. I remember swearing at people, driving like a maniac, in efforts to keep that gauge from hitting red. We eventually found a sign pointing us the right way, and blasted onto the GCP. Traffic was heavy, we were stressed, but Damn We Were MOVING! It took another hour or two, but we made it to my parents' exit, to their house and to freedom. We broke down the door, fell into the living room and collapsed.

Twelve hours after leaving our homes.

We called Scott's relatives and informed them of our safe but late arrival, and my sister drove us to drop him off. Another 45 minutes in the car, but stress free 45 minutes and a radiator fan that worked.

It was the most ridiculous trip ever. I've had other ridiculous driving trips, and two very ridiculous train trips, both of them are penis-related. I should tell you about those... they're pretty freaky. But this trip was by far the most amazing.

I still have the copy of "The Great Gatsby" and read it in full for the first time last year. It sat in a box in the trunk of my car until the car died, then was transferred box and all to the trunk of Doug's car where it sat until that car died (the Rust Never Sleeps Mobile). I found it in the basement where the box was plopped after we bought the house.

We recently stopped at the Food and Books place and got some great books for Scott for Christmas... can't wait to give them to him. A couple years ago when he came to visit (I was pregnant with Geoff) he brought us two very horrible books. I think it is becoming kind of a new gift-giving tradition for us. As long as I have a reason to drive past that place, I'll be getting books for Scott. I can't believe that place doesn't have a website, I searched the web in my research for this (a)musing, and can't find one. Perhaps I'll offer the next time we stop.

So that's the twelve hour Long Island Trip. When I'm driving down there I think of it fondly while stifling in traffic... It Could Be Worse. We could be in Sven the Mighty parked in front of the Villa Barone Manor with two whiny kids... but we've got Rudy the Mighty Saturn now. Hopefully the days of side of the highway overheating prevention are well behind us and we'll not have to think about that ever again.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all... if you're reading and you participate in the traditions. I understand some consider it a national day of mourning, but perhaps it's time to move on from that and find something to be optimistic about for a change. I think that everyone this year should put the anger of their past behind and just reflect on what's good for once, damnit.

Don't eat too much (to the point of being sick) and remember the purpose of Thanksgiving. I'm sure you can find ONE thing at least that you are Thankful For. Lift it up in your mind and your heart, and may that thing be blessed for you.

What am I thankful for this year? Well, for starters my job. I am well paid to do very little compared to people I know who are busting hump for no satisfaction. I'm really happy here. I'm thankful for my great family. My son's ability to keep his glasses on, his doctors. My healthy and very smart daughter who constantly keeps me laughing. My wonderful husband who is better than 90% of the husbands out in the world, even if I find fault in him. My parents and my in-laws, even if they are far away I know they love us and care for us. My lovely sister who constantly makes me laugh my ass off and gives me hours of joy and entertainment, and a kindred spirit to which I can vent and bitch to my heart's content and know she doesn't mind. My dog, even if I miss my Missy. My church because the people there are cool and not in my face all the time asking me to commit to doing stuff. My long distance friendships with people like Scott, Smitty, Chris and Chrissy, people I wish I could be with all the time, but unfortunately can't (thank God for the internet... keeps me in close touch with those folk). Bonnie, Wayne and Marcia, Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews, Monty Python... A Christmas Story on TNT, okay now I'm getting silly. But finally, I'm happy and thankful for my home. It isn't Martha Stewart Land, but it is warm and open to all, and a great place to just have, when so many people don't have that reassurance of a place to belong. And, absolutely finally, I'm Thankful I Survived College, where so many things could have resulted in my inadvertent death or injury. I'm glad to be here now.

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