Sunday, January 28, 2018

Great Falls and the Great Discovery

On Saturday morning, we set out on a scenic drive, which didn't go as well as we wanted.

Since we arrived here, starting out with the six weeks that I was sick, followed by the holidays and probably one of the coldest winters they've seen in these parts, we haven't gotten out much.

I think that's why I'm not feeling like I "like" it here. I haven't seen here. I haven't experienced here. I ride the metro to work. I listen to my podcast of choice. I work. I ride the metro home. We watch TV (note: "Turn: Washington's Spies" was a great series!)

 And it isn't like we've just sat here in our little rambler doing nothing.

  • We've gone for a couple walks of note. 
  • We went to the Jefferson Memorial on one of the days I didn't feel like dying, back in October. 
  • We went to the Brookville Beer Farm on another one of those days.  
  • We went to a farmer's market in Takoma Park, and found a nice brewery selling Crowlers, so we bought a few of those and have been talking about trekking up to see them. 
  • We bought cheese at that farmer's market too. 
  • We went to a silent movie screening at Halloween time and met the piano player who wrote the scores to the movies. That was cool. 
  • We found a local pub to watch football in, and eat Old Bay Wings from. 
  • We went to see R and M and the baby up in Baltimore, I need some more baby time.
  • Jess and I went to the Natural History Museum, and I finally rode the metro past my office for the first time.

But we haven't done the Doug and Chris things we've all grown to love. The go out and drive and see and explore and take shit tons of pictures and meet locals and just kind of sink in happily.

Hopefully spring will bring all of that.  And with the good weather, yesterday was supposed to be one of those days.

Doug wanted to go to the Great Falls Park on the Potomac. He put the address into the GPS and it turns out that location was a lie.

We ended up at a Quonset hut and Model Basin owned by the Navy, on the Maryland side of things. I told him the internet said we needed to go back to the highway, and go to Virginia. Doug said that he saw a sign that pointed northwest, on the Maryland side, and he was going to follow the advice of said sign. We bickered a bit - I asked him to change his course, but no. Hmmm. Doug saw a sign, saying something was that-a-way, and signs don't lie, like the GPS did.

Well, we found an entry way and welcome center on the Maryland side of things. Alright then. Doug wins that argument, so even though the National Parks Service doesn't tell us to go this way, it's a way to go. We'll take it. We happily began to cruise down the road.

Turns out, it was us, and 50 million other people. It was kind of ridiculous.

Truly, yesterday was one of the first nice days in a while. So I can't blame all the other savages for heading out for fun in the 50 plus degree weather.

Doug planned the trip, the route, the destination.... and we didn't anticipate this.

People were parking their cars along the road about a mile behind where we were - I presume there is some way in through the woods.

But on the map it looks like a pretty long trek in.

Our low coolant light came on while we were in the line to get into the park, of course it did. Doug decided it would be a good idea to turn around, and head out of there, lest something bad happen. We visited a town called Potomac, MD, got some coolant, caught some Pokemon, and Doug was starting to get grumpy at the not awesomeness of our day. But he had an alternate plan. Let's just keep driving up the river, and see where it takes us.

We took a small side-trip down to one of the roads to the river to the Seneca Aqueduct, and took a brief walk about there.

Learning about the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Canal system that was in place and the tow-paths where horses would drag ships up and down, and into lock channels. It was pretty cool.

The place was not crowded at all, a lot of cyclists riding the path, which stretches for miles and miles along the river. It looked like a pretty sweet ride, and possibly a good put-in if you had a kayak.

He'd read about a place called Smoketown Brewing Station, in Brunswick, MD. I plugged it into the GPS and it said it was a 50 minute drive on the scenic backroads up MD 28. Which is what Doug wanted. So we did that.

Continuing on to our earthly reward of beer and dinner, we followed signs for the scenic by-way, keeping a west by northwest orientation up the river. We'd hoped that there would be actual river views, that we'd ride along the river at some places but that wasn't to be. Everything was mansions and farms. Horses and mansions. Farms and silos. Mansions and silos. No view down to the left into that river basin. Just the awareness that it was down in there.

We got to Brunswick and found the brewery easily. They didn't have a great deal of food offerings, so we had snack, and enjoyed two beers each.

 Geoff decided to go right off the bat with an IPA that had a lot of IBUs, and then he sampled my Brown and Doug's Rye, noting the giant difference between the flavors. Even though it is a light colored beer, it packed a punch in the mouth taste that he noticed, and liked.

Doug and I both commented that we've had some decent craft brews since coming to the area, but this place outdid them all. Nothing weak or watery, nothing just pretentious for being ... pretentious. It was all so good. We'll be back!

We took a little walk around Brunswick, down to the Potomac, got some brochures for kayaking and rafting, and discussed how this town probably looks a lot different in July than on a day in January.

We talked about John Brown and Harper's Ferry, WVA, which was only about 7 miles away, realizing how very close we were to the place where three states meet, the Tripoint as it were.  There is so much history right around us, literally within a 10 mile to 20 mile radius, without ever entering Washington DC proper.

The interstate was the best way home for us, as it was incredibly dark and poorly marked and lit on some of the backroads. We noted that we were super close to Frederick, and that's another town that we wanted to visit.

We had two growlers filled at the brewery, and settled in to watch our Netflix choices. Geoff bought himself a Crowler of Oatmeal Stout, since he's house sitting for the neighbor, and he went over there to hang with the dog and watch his own TV choices. 

Closest thing so far to a day that was "us." In fact, screw that. It was a day that was totally us. It sometimes happens that we start with a plan, the plan goes pear shaped with a car that just might overheat, or some shit might happen, we don't end up where we planned to be but hell if we don't end up where it works out great for us. And that's how I felt about yesterday. 

Three Drink Geoff

When last I wrote, we were on our way to Doug's office party for some shenanigans. Six hours of open bar shenanigans, as it were. Luckily for me, I have developed a little social anxiety as of late, and so drinking to the point of stupid drunk in front of people I don't even know or am meeting for the first time is not an option.

I had glasses of white wine with a blueberry seltzer mixed in, so the entire night I felt hydrated and barely impacted. Doug's co-workers are fun, delightful, I had a great time meeting them.  It was a fun party. And we were not the most dressed up for "Casino Royale" night (his boss and the wife were straight out of a Bond movie) but we were also not the least dressed up. All told, staying at a very beautiful hotel, and it all costing us about 50 bucks, I'd say it was a success.

We drove home on Sunday, which was Geoff's birthday. The "big" one. The 21.

Doug opened the refrigerator when we got home so we could make lunch, and he noticed a 4-pack of Guinness Stout cans in the fridge, with one missing. He called to the boy. "Geoff? Did you go to the liquor store first thing this morning and buy beer?"

Geoff stood there and grinned.

"Well, I found out the liquor store doesn't open until 10." he replied.

"What time did you go?"

"Um. 9."

"So you got up at 9am and went to buy your very first booze. Interesting. Good choice though." I had to give it to him - he didn't go get an 18 pack of Natty Ice or Coors Light or PBR. Went and chose a quality beer.  We have modeled (I hope?) good behavior.

He had two more of them over the course of the day (I stole number 4). I showed him how to pour it so the cascade kind of works - not quite as right as when Guinness is pulled off draft by an expert bar tender - but they've made the experience close to it. We talked about Nitro beers, and the noise that cracking this can open makes vs. the noise any other beer will make.

Geoff had spent the better part of two weeks actually researching where he wanted to go for his birthday dinner. If we were at home*, he would have chosen some of the obvious spots -- the Tap or The Grill Next Door in Haverhill, Amesbury's Ale House. Places he's been dozens of times over his pre-legal life, but has not had the opportunity to enjoy their plentiful quality craft beer on draft.

He selected Indian Food, not a craft brewery with a food menu. They didn't have any special or amazing beers to go with the experience, but we did talk a lot about filtered vs. unfiltered; craft breweries vs. beers that used to be craft breweries that are now owned by one of the two giant beer manufacturers on earth and still like to try and convince people they are craft.

The food was outstanding, and Geoff's interest in the food and beer, and the discussion we all shared were probably the most notably wonderful things I've experienced with him since moving here.

For Doug's birthday two weeks later, we went to a place in DC called Pearl Dive Oyster Palace.

Initially, he had selected a Belgian Beer and mussels bar, but the downstairs was not open on Tuesday nights. He had his heart set on the downstairs location, so he called an audible and picked this other place.

They had some really nice breweries represented in their craft list, which wasn't big, but I have to say they made some great choices.

Geoff had three beers, and I limited myself to two, because I began to realize that I would probably have to be the one do drive us home.

Doug was celebrating with oysters, and craft beer and was in an exceptionally great mood. The two of them commandeered the discussion, talking about oyster flavors and harvest locations, why Rhode Island tastes different than Virginia; and  about beer IBU and ABV and styles and flavors.

It was a pleasure to sit and listen.

Jesus, they've really connected on something. Young Geoff begins his journey into the knowledge of the magic ingredients: Water, Yeast, Grain and Hops, and all that that implies.

On the way home, three drink Geoff talked to his grandmother (Doug's mom) while I drove and tried not to crash the car from laughing. He was chatty and entertaining. He was sassy and full of questions for her about a recent trip taken to France and Germany.

"We should have given him beer earlier, I think." I said to Doug, as we listened to him say more sentences to his grandmother than I think he's said in five years.

Alcohol is a very good social lubricant when managed correctly. Four drink Geoff would be a little out of control, and five drink Geoff. Well. I think of comedian Mike Birbiglia in this case:

Two Drink Mike enjoys dancing and knows a magic trick. Whereas, No Drink Mike enjoys biographies, and has serious opinions on wildlife. And Five Drink Mike...dances with wildlife...

Three drink Geoff, that's perfect level drinking Geoff. I hope to keep him that way. We talked long and hard about how to drink, not to drink to excess, drink for the taste. If you want to sample 5 beers off a menu, get a flight instead of five pints.

I think he gets it. At least, he is enthusiastic over it. Yesterday's conversation was all about different hops, and the differences between a Cascade and a Czech Saaz. Noble vs. ... I don't even know the term but "not" noble?

Who knows, maybe we've created a hobby brewer. Maybe he and Doug will small batch brew together, the way Doug used to small batch brew when he was in his mid-20s. Jess used to help him fill the bottles and put the caps on. It was lovely parenting.

Maybe we've come full circle over a 24 year journey.

Also, here is a picture of Doug, with Dessert, for his 50th birthday. 
I told the girl it was his birthday, and he was very thankful that they did not sing to him. 
Happy Birthday sweetie!

* I keep referring to "home" meaning the Merrimack Valley, Newburyport, North of Boston, Boston. Not sure when I'll switch to calling Maryland "home."

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Ending 2017, Beginning 2018

Christmas came and went. New Years came and went. And here we are the night before my son turns 21.  Long time readers, all three of you, can think back to when I started the blog in 2001, and realize this has been an ongoing journey of weirdness and wonder. And that's okay.  Each year I say I'll write a little more, that's my new year's resolution. But I never stick with it. Instead, I think I'll resolve to just be honest with myself. It's far easier that way.

We didn't do anything interesting or spectacular for the holidays. Doug does not get any vacation time  until end of March, his 6 month anniversary with the new company. Actually, I don't know if he is given vacation time off the bat, or starts to earn that vacation time. There is a distinction... so I should find that out. He'd like to go on vacation or something at that point. So would I.

Right now if he takes time off, he does so with no pay. He took one day off so far, to go to my Aunt's funeral in New York. He didn't get the day after Thanksgiving off, and didn't take it unpaid,  but if he had we would have gone to Pennsylvania to his uncle's big open house where all the family for generations comes to gather. This was the last year it'll happen there, since the house and the land/farm are being sold. So we missed out on that.

Jess flew down to be with us for Christmas, and we had a wonderful visit. She had just picked up her new used car, she was getting it inspected the day she went home. So much adulting.

The weather here in the DC area was very cold around Christmas but right now 20 degrees sounds delightful, as it was 6 this morning when I got up. 4 when I came home from the train last night.

Jess and I were both very disinclined to go out and do anything, and Doug didn't want to do the things I wanted to do, like go visit the Waredaca brewery and hospitality barn. He thought it was too far to go. So we pretty much sat around and did nothing. We hosted his aunt and cousin, who live over in Reston VA, and had a great dinner and nice fellowship with them.

New Year's Eve was pretty much the same. Incredibly cold, neither of us wanted to go out or do anything. Geoff was dog sitting for the neighbor so he was over there for the night. We got snacks and beer and some tropical stuff to mix with something in the cabinets, so we could imagine it being warm and wonderful. He and I settled into Netflix and Snore mode.

I was reading my Facebook feed, and noted that my friend Noah (former intern at our Boston office) was stranded in the Baltimore Airport due to his flight being canceled. He was hoping for a rescue in the form of a hotel paid for by the airlines but there was no progress on that front. I figured he was going to be stuck there and hating it, and I'm only 30 minutes away...

So Doug and went out and rescued him. A more thankful soul you've probably never known.

It was delightful to have him, and know that his fate otherwise was either a sketchy motel someplace or a night on the carpet in the corner. We had snacks and drank Dark & Stormys and didn't even notice that the midnight hour had come and was 10 minutes past us.

At 1am he noted that the airline had told him they'd call when they had a hotel for him, and here we were without a phonecall, text, or any other communication from them. We laughed and headed to bed.

It was a lovely time. And a nice way to end and begin a year. For a landmark date, in a new place, with too cold weather to go have a good time someplace, it was kind, and it was weird, and it was kind of weird. But this was a good thing to do, and I wouldn't trade it for a night out on the town.

Speaking of big night on the town...

Tonight is my husband's office holiday party. They always hold it after the new year since everyone is always too busy before the holidays (and it is super expensive to do something) so here we are, tonight tonight tonight.

The great news is he likes his job, a lot.  He likes his boss a lot. He likes what he's doing and likes his coworkers. It's a real blessing. He was kind of, shall we say, miserable in the last place of employment for a lot of reasons. None of which are my story to tell really. But it is nice to have a very happy Doug in my life.

They take parties seriously at this company, he says. The holiday party usually has door prizes for best dress up for the theme. Last year was the Great Gatsby, the year before was a night on the Nile.  And one of the door prizes was a 60 inch flat screen TV.

This year is Casino Royale, at a big beautiful hotel in Baltimore, complete with table games and roulette and all kinds of mock-gambling shenanigans.

 Doug thought about renting a tux and being "Fat James Bond" but he is sticking with a suit, and got a cool tie with poker hands of cards on them. Campy, and totally "dad" style. I like it.

He told me I needed to dress up too, not just wear slacks and a blouse with a pretty scarf (my idea of dressing for a party)... Now, I have a hard enough time putting on decent clothes. Nothing I own fits me, and I hate going to buy new clothes because I hate everything.

I pulled out the dress I wore to Aaron's wedding rather than buy something new. Thankful that I didn't drop it off at one of the many Savers runs I made before leaving Massachusetts. I figured what would I use this for again? Well here ya go.  My "work wife" found a lot of really nice things for me to wear online...  but I just figured this would be easier and I knew the dress fit me. Then, she and I started buying accessories.

I bought two different clutch purses in case I hated the first one, which was a good idea since one still hasn't shown up.... Picked up two pairs of shoes, in case I hated one pair (and I did). RCJ found me a beautiful wedding shawl, fake fur but feels like rabbit. Super Score. She found a really cute silver leaf headband that would have made me look like Legolas' fat elven aunt. Unfortunately, it was sold out. So I got hair pins that are shaped like the suits in cards and will put 2 on either side of my head.

With his tie, and my hairpins, it screams Vegas, baby.

Doubtful we'll win any door prizes for our get-ups, but we'll at least look snooty snifter style. Kind of bummed that it isn't a Gatsby theme, because my sister went to a Gatsby themed party a few months ago and found all kinds of good dresses, hair things, and RCJ knows how to wig shop, so I totally would have been hooked up for some fun with that.

I posted this picture on Facebook of the gathering of items on my bed, and my friends all chimed in on how cute everything is. I'm inwardly groaning but totally love their enthusiasm for me about the occasion. Demands of selfies and pictures of me and Doug done up nice. They're so cute.

And I also love that they know me enough to know this is a kind of big deal for me to pull all this together and make the effort.

I just wish it wasn't 15 degrees out. Jesus. So cold, too cold to go out in a dress. The good news is we're staying at the hotel where the party is, so my plan is to get dressed at the hotel, and come down the stairs, and go back up the stairs, without ever freezing my feet and ass right off.

And then I can jump right back into yoga pants and a Guster T-shirt. Whew.

Here's to starting off the new year ... glamorously?

And then tomorrow. Geoff's birthday. We asked him to pick the restaurant he wants to go to for his birthday. He's been making a list of the places he's eaten, been to, so far. And I've got a few ideas. Like maybe we'll go up to Frederick or the Waredaca brewery, like I wanted to during Christmas week.

I'm kind of sad that we're not up north for this, because he has a couple friends I'm sure would take him out for his 21st, instead of having to go out with mom and dad. We were out at dinner the other night and the girl tried to take an order for a beer for him and he told her he wasn't yet 21. He looks super lumbersexual right now. Flannel and long blonde hair and a cute little beard thing. His father's son for sure.

He still hasn't found his footing here. He has a part time job, but hasn't made any friends in his age group, is still thinking about applying to the community college and missed the application deadline to start classes this semester upcoming. We'll see about getting him a little more progressed here.

And that's the 2018 update so far. Hoping all my friends in the Boston area are doing alright after that blizzard, the Bomb Cyclone, the flooding on the seaport and many of the coastal down-towns. It was weird to watch from afar, I'll tell you that.