Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Where I drive with my sister to Florida

Oh, the adventure. Oh, the drama. Oh, the wrenched shoulder from yanking my backpack up and hurting myself while leaving horrible Logan Airport. Oh, the stories I can tell.

Actually, there aren't many. We kept a low profile, didn't act outrageous, and when we made it to Florida we vegged out and didn't do anything like parasailing or bungee jumping (although I would have if the opportunity presented itself).

Doug, the kids, and I got to Grandma and Grampa's Tuesday night. We made great time, and the kids slept most of the way. They transitioned to bed nicely too, after a short time of running around with the giddy excitement of being awake in the middle of the night.

Oreo made the trip with us. Shirley has another grandchild to love!

And the cat has a friend to try and eat, I mean, make... ha ha ha.

My family, guinea pig and all, left on Wednesday afternoon for home, and I stayed behind.

Before they left, Linda gave the kids her old 80s style Casio Keyboard, which she dug out while packing her stuff. Here, Doug and the shorties give it a whirl. Hours of noisy family entertainment should ensue... Geoff really got a kick out of it, and Jessica took an actual interest. For a kid who thinks everything is "boring," it was nice to see.

It was the weirdest feeling ever to not have them there... but we had a nice time. Linda, mom and I went out to dinner and to a bookstore so I could get some reading materials... Linda and I left my parents house on Thursday morning as planned, only about 2 hours later than we intended. Not bad, considering we are perpetually late in getting started.

That's my dad, my sister and my mom. I'm visible in the top right corner of the picture in my college graduation portrait. Taking the pictures usually leaves me out of the action.

This is Linda's cat, the guinea pig desiring "Precious," or as Geoff calls her, Crecious. He never has gotten the "P" at the beginning right. I like how the flash gleamed in her eye in this one.

And Linda says Goodbye tearfully to Miss Precious Kitty Kitty. Awwwwww Winnna, wattamatta, ah you cwyin? Awwww, Winnna.

Shirley cried a bit (Linda caught her) and Bart was super helpful in the loading of the car... we hit heavy traffic on the Belt Parkway, cruised right the hell over to Staten Island. It was a breeze and a half. But... we got screwed up when we crossed over into New Jersey. (Travel tip for you, DO NOT take the Goethals Bridge over to New Jersey. It is suicide... piece of shit. Take the Outerbridge crossing... it's much better and puts you right where it all makes sense).

I followed the signs to I-95, they indicated neither north nor south in scope, so we found ourselves heading north into Newark. We looped over to like I-278 or some shit, going totally out of our way, and went back down to 440, the Outerbridge crossing, and got on 95. What a great way to start a trip, with a 45 minute detour. Good God.

We made amazing time to Baltimore otherwise... got there right about noon and decided to make the first of our pilgrimages, to Fells Point, home of Homicide: Life on the Streets.

Best TV cop show ever.

We are both big huge giant fans of the show, and it was lunchtime, so we decided to hit a burger joint (none other than Fuddruckers, boys and girls!) and find the hallowed shrine where Bayliss and Pembleton grilled suspects in "The Box," where Crossetti floated face down, where Russert and Felton had their torrid affair, where Gee ran the station with an iron fist and a pasta-loving heart. Aaaah, Baltimore. Charm City. Sweetness.

Lunch at Fudds always makes me think of Dan, and here I'm deciding to document the moment for posterity's sake... going to Fudds without the Guys. Who'da thunk it. Sorry Dan!

There she is. The Old Charm City Police Department Building. The harbor is right there underneath it, and there is a huge long pier, upon which several amazing scenes in H:LOTS were filmed. ("Frank, I need you to absolve me...")

Linda and I were giddy as schoolgirls. We ARE freaks, I know.

The plaque outside the now unused building documents what took place there. And we wept.

The view across the street, cool buildings in Fells Point, mostly pubs, bars, drinkeateries, eatdrinkeries and dives. But they were all cool.

Another view from the backside opposite, with Fells Point boozeries across the street.

In the show, Bayliss, Lewis and Munch all pitch in and buy a bar, and here it is: The Waterfront. This may or may not be the actual storefront of the bar, but it looks like it from what we recall.

This is the interior, and it looks like it is the right place. There was another bar next door, which could have been the place, but it was significantly different, so if it is they've done some major remodeling. This place just looked like it was, with the pulls and the mirrored bar. We had fun discussing the whether or nots of this location... A plaque on the outside here would have been nice too.

The glass doors which lead upstairs to copland... the steps upon which Pembleton saluted Crossetti in full police dress at his funeral after refusing to attend the Catholic Mass, and the city's refusal to give Crossetti a hero's funeral...

Pembleton, played adroitly by Andre Braugher... such a superstar, an amazing actor... totally blows me away.

I had chills recalling this moment. Wonderfully moving episode... and there we were, standing on the same steps of that scene. Sniff. Weep. Sigh.

Before we left Baltimore, I saw this store and couldn't resist taking a picture. Someone else gets the concept of aMuse or a_muse in my case. This is a toy store, and I think I could have just moved in and been happy.

From Balto we jumped back onto 95 and worked our way through Virginia, skipping Washington DC at Linda's suggestion. She suggested that security was going to be a nightmare there, and that we wouldn't be able to just drive and tootle around the way we just did in Baltimore. I agreed, we sped through.

We crashed for the night in Fayetteville, NC. Slept the sleep of death, having spent 14 hours on the road (and licking the dirty steps of television greatness), we were pretty damn wiped out. Got out of the hotel 5 minutes before checkout.

We progressed southward, and made the obligatory stop at South of The Border.

It wasn't nearly as much fun as the times I've been there before. They took down most of their billboards due to protest from the Mexican government... they felt Pedro being depicted as a constant siesta-taking, tequilla-swigging, poncho-wearing lout, and the mock-Spanish writing (Pedro Say "Joost stop you donkey") was offensive. That didn't stop them from using this whack-Spanish lingo on their official website though...

Si, si, Senor! La Seesters Sombrera Grande
at your service.

True, but I'm an Irish chick and I don't have a problem with people referring to my ilk as a bunch of shaleleigh-weilding, whiskey-swilling, leprachaun-molesters. That's funny shit... Stupid President of Mexico, ruining all our fun as capitalistic, materialistic, fat gringos!

So the buildup wasn't there from Virginia southward, and the new billboards are just insipid. There wasn't a lot of merchandise for sale, and it was frigging FREEZING! so we didn't stay long. Long enough to take some Grandma pictures, and I'll be doing a Grandma's Adventures episode here in a few days. We hit the road.

Linda hams it up before we ran out of there shivering.

Oh, and this made my stomach hurt. A black velvet painting of two schmoopy unicorns. It's the size of my couch, lengthwise. It could be yours if you stop and shop at South of the Border!!!! "Interterrible," as my sister would say (long story).

We initially were going to try to hook up with friends of mine who live near Charleston, SC, but they weren't home, so we tootled around Charleston. The day was GORGEOUS and we just drove around looking at stuff. We wanted to also hit Savannah, GA that day, and figured if we got out and walked around we'd never make it. As was we crossed over just at sunset, a most wonderful sunset I might say, and were agog with Savannah. It was lovely, we drove around, checking out all the gorgeous architecture, the people, the sights, the sounds... but alas, could not find a single damn parking space.

We decided after a while to hoof it out of Savannah, and see how far south we could get. We got just south of Jacksonville and stopped for the night at a hotel. Virginia, my sister's best friend and host for her transition, was hoping we'd drive the rest of the way down that night and Linda and I debated the pros and cons. I thought it would be better to spend the dosh on a crashpad instead of spending a few hours in an ambulance/operating room after we got seriously injured in an accident. Six hours more in the pitch dark would get us there at 4am... and there were crazy fucking people on I-95 that night. Everyone was speeding, we were doing at least 85 and people were blowing us away. I thought it'd be better if we had morning light and bright, alert minds on our side. Plus, if we'd gone through, I wouldn't have seen this at a gas station and wouldn't have been horribly entertained:

Hee hee hee. Snark. Isn't Fuelman funny? He looks like a gas pump with an ATM on his chest. And the gas pump is obviously going to his ass, which is SO funny on SO many levels. Okay. Only on one. Gas from his backside. Bwa ha ha!!!! Too damn much. I died laughing. Linda, however, didn't quite see the humor and thinks I am a retard. Well? Huh-yah. Go, Fuelman! Go! Gimme some Fuel, Man! Oh, I kill me.

We got to Ginger & Steve's at about 2 pm after that bright and early start (in spite of our hotel neighbors being noisy assholes at 2am) and collapsed. It was Saturday. We made it. Fort Freaking Lauderdale, baby! Whew!

The weekend was spent relaxing or attending get-togethers with Ginger & Steve's families. It was a load of fun, and we did get downtown into Ft. Liquordale (that's what people call it, I guess... it made me laugh) Sunday for a night time cruise after dinner with Steve's parents/grandma/aunt/brother/brother's girlfriend... Nice city.

We went to a little bar on Hollywood Beach, and there were these three crazy assed drunk Canadians there who were acting like they hadn't heard songs like "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Bat out of Hell" in a hundred years and were playing air piano and doing weird chair dancing with their drunk selves while speaking some whack version of french and english.

We tried not to watch. But they were so funny... and drunk, and entertaining. We thought if we watched them they'd either come over and hang out with us, or come over and try and kill us. Steve, Ginger and Linda have all been instrumental participants in some good bar fights in the past, but I haven't ever. And I figure that 35 is not an age to start.

So we let them do their thing and snickered.

Monday we didn't do much, but at night Linda and I took off to go drive around the city and see another friend of hers who lives there, and I got the kids T-shirts and cool things for me, Doug, Aaron & Michelle from a shop on the strip. It was laid back, man.

My flight home, however, was NOT laid back.

Linda and Steve dropped me off 2 hours before my departure time. I got searched with all due diligence and severity at both the luggage check and in person because I had a one-way ticket. The girl searching my luggage did such a laxidasical and shitty job, and couldn't get all my crap back inside my bag. I basically stood there and laughed. I offered to help her, but she said I wasn't allowed to help or touch my luggage until I next saw it at my destination. It was quite entertaining to watch the poor thing trying to cram all my dirty laundry, my winter coat and shit back into my bag. She looked at me through her eyebrows, and I said "Hey, I got it in there... I bet you can. Don't be delicate, make a fist and pound that shit in there. It isn't Waterford crystal, babe. It's a parka. For when I land. It's cold where I'm going. With my one way ticket." She had to have someone come help her. It made me and the guy behind me laugh.

I didn't laugh when I went through the security checkpoint, though. I set the walk-through thing off because my sunglasses were on top of my head (duh). I totally forgot they were there. So I got escorted by an MP with rifle at ready to be searched by a lady with a magic wand.

My shoe then set the thing off, so they had me take my shoes off (I look like a shoe bomber, don't I? Green Vans sneakers are so damn suspicious!) and they couldn't figure out what inside my shoe was beeping, so they took the lining out. Fuckers, pardon my French It won't go back in right and I was pissed the whole way home. I tell you, security at airports isn't BETTER than before September 11th, it is just SLOWER and more RIDICULOUS. Oh my God. I was so annoyed.

The first leg of my flight was to Atlanta, and was beautiful. We flew really low, and I got a good look at the geography and terrain of South Florida. I got to see the Everglades and Lake Okechobee. From there I had no idea what I was looking at, but it was all cool. Our flight had been delayed in departure, too many jets not enough runway, so we got to Atlanta 10 minutes before my flight to Boston was due to leave. It was luckily at the next gate, and I got on just in time. The flight was bumpy, and we flew really high up there above all the weather... landing was no fun, the approach to Boston was one of the roughest I've ever experienced. The pilot apologized to each of us as we "deplaned" (I love that fake word).

At the baggage claim, a few of us who had come all the way from Ft. Lauderdale didn't have our bags appear. Seems they didn't get our stuff on the transfer plane, even though the planes were right next to one another and there were only three of us. Doug and the kids were late in getting to me due to Doug missing the ramp (they moved it since the last time he was there and he was foncused) so we waited and waited to see if my luggage would show up. Finally this guy "Parker" told us the next plane from Atlanta would most likely have our luggage on it, and that wouldn't be in until 12:45am... so they would courier our shit out to us. Great.

So we left empty handed, had dinner, Geoff fell asleep at the restaurant. He was unhappy that he wasn't getting ON an airplane at the airport... that they were just picking me up. So it took a long time for him to get happy. I had to threaten to get on a plane and leave again if he didn't. He straightened right up. We got home, I watched the Osbournes (Laugh My Ass Off Funny last night with Sharon throwing a ham at the "wanker" neighbors!), and crashed.

There's the update. We made it down, I made it back. Now Linda has to get an asskicking rockstar job and rule the universe. Keep her in your prayers boys and girls, and we shall keep you posted on the goings on in the Southland for her. She rules!

Now, I have dishes to do here kids. Seems that penance for abandoning my family for a week is that I get to do all the housework they didn't do in my absence.

Special thanks here go out to Steve and Ginger for the groovy futon crashpad, the great hosting, and the rolling tour of the vicinity. You guys are awesome! And thank you for taking care of my Freaky baby sister. Don't let her get down on herself. Kick her ass periodically.

And teach the bitch how to cook, fer chrissake! (grin).

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