Connecticut Vacation 2014 (or, I still suck at titles)

New England. My birthplace, but now Denver after 18 years is home. Sadly our family won’t even visit us, let alone join us, necessitating the yearly pilgrimage.

First travel snafu: Despite being reminded multiple times by a harried TSA agent to empty our pockets, I forgot the pack of gum I had grabbed very last minute as I exited the car. The agent on the other side of the scanner that pat me down came ALL unglued. You’d think I was trying to sneak a Smith & Wesson on the plane.  Geez woman, do you think I might have other things on my mind at this moment in time?  Although I do appreciate her vigilance, saving our nation from one Trident product at a time.

We boarded, only to discover our seats (bought by brother Jason) weren’t together but rather one behind the other. Tery had agreed to sit behind me to ensure no one would kick me the whole time (because I really, really, really hate that), but then we realized I would be sitting with two children while their mother was across the aisle in the window seat. She was ridiculously grateful when I offered to switch, as if I’d prefer the aisle with two strange kids. You’re welcome, mom.

We prepared for takeoff, but the poor guy at the end of my row was having tray table malfunction: he dutifully put it up, only to have it flop back down again. Fortunately this went unnoticed by the cabin crew (no doubt still whispering about the terrorist who tried to sneak gum in).

For the love of god, man!  FIX YOUR TRAY TABLE

For the love of god, man! FIX YOUR TRAY TABLE

We arrived in New York uneventfully, where we were smacked in the face instantly by an oppressive wall of humidity on exiting the plane. Within a few steps our clothes were clinging to us most unpleasantly. Within ten minutes we were positively desperate to find air conditioning. This is the #1 reason why I don’t want to move back — I never want to live anywhere that AC is essential for more than a few days a year.  I was thankful I had prepared for this by purchasing several heavy-duty anti-frizz hair products.

We planned on a cab to get to Jason’s, but he texted that he would send a driver. This sounded very posh; Jason and David are living the dream, with dual gay male disposable incomes, first class everywhere and a penthouse apartment with a view of Manhattan.

The driver turned out to be from Uber, the new service that’s pissing off cabbies in every major city, with comparable rates but riding in a private citizen’s vehicle, decidedly less battleworn and sticky.  Our driver made us hike the entire length of the terminal to the only parking lot available (large outer areas are shut down for construction), and we had precious little to chat about that whole time other than the miserable humidity.

We were very happy to get into his very nice Lincoln town car, where he turned on the AC but then rolled his window down.  But the ride took only about fifteen minutes. We can tolerate almost anything for fifteen minutes.

So many air fresheners.  Was he recently carrying a dead body?

So many air fresheners. Was he recently carrying a dead body?

I wasn’t kidding when I said Jason has a penthouse. It’s nice enough, but the balcony is SPECTACULAR.  Around 500 square feet, with the aforementioned view of Manhattan and a full vegetable garden; if I were to live in New York, this would be the only way (of course, they also pay enough rent to get a McMansion in Colorado, without the downside of city living (which they don’t see as a downside, obvs)).

The only way to live in New York City

The only way to live in New York City

Jason cooked us what felt like a six-course meal using every option available from the garden in creative unique dishes, finishing with steak (not from the balcony) at about 11 pm. These are true city party boys. I felt like I’d never be hungry again.

The next day was still more traveling (this is why I hate vacation — seems like we spend more time getting around than actually relaxing).  The boys were off to Puerto Rico (disposable incomes), and we were catching a train to Connecticut.  This required another Uber ride to Grand Central.

It turns out our first driver spoiled us with his sane, law-abiding driving style.  The second one committed a moving violation approximately once a block — passing a woman turning left, on the left, to swing around and go right; plowing through a crosswalk full of pedestrians; taking advantage of an arguing bus driver and motorist to cut them both off.  Never have I been so happy to climb out of a car.

There’s a reason Grand Central Station has inspired its own cliché; the foot traffic will make your head spin if you’re not used to it. So many people in so much of a hurry, and no time for you to get your bearings. I blame this for the Macchiato Debacle.

I can’t stand coffee, yet crave the caffeine (and soda will never be a breakfast beverage).  It’s quite the quandary.   Downstairs in Grand Central is a huge, very busy coffee kiosk. We had about five minutes before our train. The pressure was incredible.

I can usually find a super sweetened option at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, but this place wasn’t so childlike tastebud-friendly.  For some reason my gaze fell on the macchiato. It sounded promising, but to be sure I asked Tery if I would like it. She said yes, so I ordered.

I was hoping for something sweet, tall and cold.  I got something squat, hot, and very, very coffee flavored (picture a paper shot glass filled with swamp water with a pretty heart design in the foam).  BLECH.  I took one sip and immediately looked for a trash bin, which there didn’t seem to be any. I tried leaving it on a staircase post, but Tery caught up with me and salvaged it. “Why did you order it then?” she asked exasperatedly.  When I tried to blame her, it turned out in the din she thought I had asked if I could get it, not SHOULD I.  “I paid seven bucks for this, you aren’t just throwing it away.”  Being the best mom ever, she traded me for her iced coffee, which was substantially better.

Then the very relaxing three-hour train ride to Connecticut. My favorite parts of vacation are those spent on public transportation, when nothing is expected of me and I can entertain myself.

What followed was four days with Tery’s family, a series of ups and downs with four very demanding nephews and never enough time to do anything.  Six days is not nearly long enough for vacation, note to self. The good was New England’s signature humidity was being unusually merciful, enough that I thought I was misremembering how brutal it can be (it started creeping back up by the end).  The bad was the first night I agreed to play Legos with the nephews, and they wanted to do nothing else, with nobody else, the rest of the time; saying no felt cruelly heartless, but I had my sanity to consider.

Tery ran a race with her godson, where we met Casey Neistat, filmmaker and YouTube sensation (Tery’s sister is obsessed with him, recognized him instantly; I have since become interested as well and wish I had also asked for a pic).

Brush with celebrity.  Michelle was so starstruck I don't think she remembers a word she said to him

Brush with celebrity. Michelle was so starstruck I don’t think she remembers a word she said to him

We ate at Captain Scott’s Seafood, with clam fritters and a fried clam roll so divine I was able to ignore the three-ring circus of trying to feed four young boys who either didn’t know what they liked or didn’t like any of the options, and didn’t care if their mother ever ate as long as their needs were seen to.

Nothing like this in Colorado, I'll admit

Nothing like this in Colorado, I’ll admit

We went to a children’s museum with the nephews and my sister’s family, a bit of a disappointment since I was expecting the Boston Children’s Museum.  If Boston is the Louvre, the Niantic Children’s Museum is…the Niantic Children’s Museum. The one highlight was a tiny puppet stage, where a strange girl would only allow one or two lines to be delivered before closing the theater (curtain)…repeatedly. I laughed my ass off, mainly at the comments of my sister and brother-in-law, but the girl thought she was a hit and did it even more.  My sister’s winning joke, after six closings: “This critic says — predictable.”

We flew kites, me for the first time in my life. What they don’t tell you about kite flying is, once you get over the initial thrill of being airborne, it’s really just a lot of standing there holding the string and doing nothing.

My niece has inherited my smirkiness

My niece has inherited my smirkiness

Most of the time was just spent catching up with family and eating; I eat too much on vacation because I feel like I can never turn down a meal, not having the freedom of eating later alone if I’d rather.

All too soon we were headed back to New York, where we were due to meet my old friend for dinner so no time to stop at Jason’s. New York requires a lot of walking, which I wouldn’t mind if I wasn’t saddled with luggage for a week’s vacation.

We killed a little time at the HBO Gift Shop, which would be better called the Game of Thrones Gift Shop

We killed a little time at the HBO Gift Shop, which would be better called the Game of Thrones Gift Shop

We ate at Junior’s in Grand Central (it’s an awfully convenient meeting point), with good food and the best cheesecake in the city, according to my friend; it WAS good, and ginormous, served in slabs the size of a hardcover book. Our waitress was insanely jealous of the Playbill from Hedwig and the Angry Inch my friend nabbed for me. She wanted to go but probably wouldn’t. Living in New York and not catching Broadway shows seems as criminal as living in Colorado and never visiting the mountains (which, to be fair, is exactly what I did for 14 years), but maybe a waitress can’t afford to take in the hottest, priciest show running.  Still, at least she didn’t have to add the cost of a plane ticket on top.

Big honking cheesecake

Big honking cheesecake.  None of us could finish our slices

Back at Jason’s, I fell asleep in their hammock rocking in a gentle night breeze while the boys prepared themselves another midnight dinner. I adored that balcony, but still wouldn’t trade my relatively small town existence for it and that city.

The boys very nicely gave us the Castle Greyskull bed...

The boys very nicely gave us the Castle Greyskull bed…

...their very shy cats, who thought the nightmare was over, thought it was muy no bien when we emerged from the bedroom in the morning

…their very shy cats, who thought the nightmare was over, thought it was muy no bueno when we emerged from the bedroom in the morning

The journey home was uneventful; no security gaffes, no misbehaving tray tables, no upgrading my seat to avoid babysitting a stranger’s kids.
Some random shots:
I wore this Doctor Who shirt on the plane the first time, and to Grand Central.  In Denver two people recognized it, one geek who complimented me, and a guy wearing the original Led Zeppelin version (don't know if he realized mine was different).  In New York, Tery says two guys did a double take looking at me; unclear if it was the shirt or my ample rack that caught their eye

I wore this Doctor Who shirt on the plane the first time, and to Grand Central. In Denver two people recognized it, one geek who complimented me, and a guy wearing the original Led Zeppelin version (don’t know if he realized mine was different). In New York, Tery says two guys did a double take looking at me; unclear if it was the shirt or my ample rack that caught their eye

Tery's father died last year.  This is his calendar in his bathroom that her mom couldn't bear to remove.  Saddest thing I've ever seen.

Tery’s father died last year. This is his calendar in his bathroom that her mom couldn’t bear to remove. Saddest thing I’ve ever seen — the page that never got turned.

NY banker staring down at the hoi polloi

NY banker staring down at the hoi polloi

The best part of vacation to me is coming home. The spiritualists look down on the accumulation of “stuff,” but I don’t care; I like having it around. I like knowing where everything is. I like using my own shower, sleeping in my own bed, having my whole wardrobe to choose from and not just the four outfits that fit in my luggage. I love my park and my bike and my cats.  I like traveling, but there’s a reason home has its own cliché. There’s no place like it.

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5 thoughts on “Connecticut Vacation 2014 (or, I still suck at titles)

  1. For me, the best part of vacation is coming home and not detecting any weird smells.

    On my last trip I got to sit next to an adorable old lady who had traveled to Dallas/Fort Worth just to pick up a puppy she had bought. You could tell right away she was already enamored with it. She was really nice and full of old-lady-aphorisms.

    The trip was to Portland, and once the moist afternoon heat hit, I finally understood what people mean when they say Texas has a dry heat. I visited New York ages ago, but it was during the winter, so I didn’t get to experience the temperatures you did. But I also didn’t get to stay at a penthouse with an amazing view. The hotel room we stayed at was so small that when you opened the door, it almost hit the post of the bed that was pressed way into the corner of the room.

    Hammock naps are the best naps.

  2. For me, the best part of vacation is coming home and not detecting any weird smells.

    On my last trip I got to sit next to an adorable old lady who had traveled to Dallas/Fort Worth just to pick up a puppy she had bought. You could tell right away she was already enamored with it. She was really nice and full of old-lady-aphorisms.

    The trip was to Portland, and once the moist afternoon heat hit, I finally understood what people mean when they say Texas has a dry heat. I visited New York ages ago, but it was during the winter, so I didn’t get to experience the temperatures you did. But I also didn’t get to stay at a penthouse with an amazing view. The hotel room we stayed at was so small that when you opened the door, it almost hit the post of the bed that was pressed way into the corner of the room.

    Hammock naps are the best naps

    • You mean like a gas leak or like something had died under your stairs?

      I’ve sat next to a few characters like that, one of whom I got on so well with we’re now friends on Facebook. How crazy is that? I’m not complaining, but generally I prefer to put my headphones on and be left alone.

      At first I thought New York would be better in the winter, but then I remembered miserable New England winters with sticky snow that just accumulates the entire season into drifts taller than your head. New England weather doesn’t know the meaning of moderation. That’s what I was going to say about Jason’s, it was the nicest 4-star hotel I’d ever stayed at! For sure the only thing that makes New York bearable is having lots of money, whereas other cities let you get away with a modest amount.

      Agreed. Never thought I’d have the best one of my life in the Big Apple.

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