Family, food, and August travel

On Friday, 9 August 2013, Janice and I took a JetBlue flight from Boston’s Logan Airport to Dulles in Virginia. We met my parents, whose birthdays were both that week. I hadn’t seen them since attending a cousin’s wedding in Chicago back in February.

It was nice to catch up with my parents on our extended family worldwide, current politics, and history and art. We had dinner at the fancy Blue Rock Inn, and while it rained the next day, we enjoyed lunch at the Griffin Tavern and dinner at Graves’ Mountain Lodge, where we’ve been going for 30 years.

In addition, we stopped by the some farm stands, the River District Arts gallery, and the Rappahannock Library Book Barn. At night, we watched some Detective De Luca, a mystery TV series taking place in World War II Italy, on MHz Networks.

That Sunday, we visited my brother and his wife and children in Northern Virginia. We stopped at a massive Wegmans on the way. My brother’s newly expanded porch was impressive, as were the massive hamburgers from the grill. It was a brief weekend visit, but I look forward to seeing my family again around the holidays.

On Friday, Aug. 16, Janice and I drove to rural Pennsylvania for her cousin’s wedding. On the way, we stopped at Rein’s Deli for sandwiches piled high with thinly sliced meats. We had heavy traffic most of the way down, but we got to Allentown around the same time as Janice’s folks. We had dinner at Fegley’s Brew Works, an upscale pub.

Despite dramas around divorces, midlife and adolescent angst, and Janice’s parents’ move from Upstate New York to Florida, everyone had a good time. Kristy and Shawn’s wedding that Saturday went smoothly, and it was nice to see Janice’s extended family at the reception.

Pennsylvania wedding
At the kids’ table

We drove home on Sunday, stopping by the Vernon Diner in Connecticut for yet another filling meal. I’ll have to work off all that good food this week, although munchies at the latest games and discovering that Yangtze River in Lexington, Mass., has a dinner buffet are conspiring against me.

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Memento mori

We typically celebrate new life in spring, but it’s late this year. One downside of reaching middle age is that we recognize obituaries more than new people entering public life. The recent deaths of Muppet co-founder Jane Henson, film critic Roger Ebert, comic book artist Carmine Infantino are reminders of our mortality and that life is precious. There is always war and suffering in the world, but we tend to focus on individuals.

Promise of resurrection
We shall all return to the earth

After traveling to Chicago a few months ago for the wedding of my cousin’s daughter, Janice and I have dealt with less pleasant family news. Her Uncle Greg, who was always friendly and upbeat, died after a painful illness (at least partly caused by exposure to chemicals during the Vietnam War). We attended his wake and funeral in Pennsylvania, and it was evident from the turnout that he was much beloved by his community.

My cousin Socorro, who had taken me under her wing when I first visited my mother’s side of the family in the Philippines back in the 1970s, died unexpectedly in a fall. She had worked as a nurse in the U.S. and helped move me into college. Socorro returned home after illness, and her kind spirit will also be missed.

Three of my friends are still fighting cancer, and my thoughts are with them and their families. In the meantime, I have college chum David I.S.’s visit and a wedding in Upstate New York to look forward to later this month. No time to waste!

Moving weekend, 2012

Townhouse apartments in Waltham, Mass.
Windsor Village

Friends, thanks again for your support as Janice and I moved on relatively short notice. After a few weeks in which we hunted for a new apartment, sold or donated various items, and packed, our relocation was tiring but not as difficult as it could have been.

Janice had to work on Friday, 24 February 2012, so I dealt with the professional movers from Gentle Giant, which we had used before. They efficiently loaded our furniture, numerous boxes of books, electronics, and bags of clothing from the duplex in Needham Heights, Massachusetts, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. I definitely couldn’t do it all myself (or even with friends and family) anymore.

I then met the movers at our new townhouse in Waltham, Mass., where they had to contend with more stairs as they worked from about 11:00 to 4:00 p.m. Of course, it was the one day in an unseasonably mild February when it snowed and rained. I met Janice for an early dinner at Stone Hearth Pizza, and we got soaked bringing a few carloads of odds and ends north that evening.

The next day, Janice’s parents, her youngest sister Melinda, and Melinda’s son Joshua came from Upstate New York to help set up our kitchen and clean out the old place. Janice and I sold a few more items, such as our refrigerator and carpets, and we junked our old TV and entertainment center (we finally got a flat-screen and a new stand for it).

Josh was disappointed that he couldn’t play with more of my toys, but most were still packed in my now-crowded study because it also had much of the contents of the basement space we gave up. Janice’s folks also brought barbeque (sloppy Joes) and funny cake.

We got the kitchen, master bedroom, and much of the living/dining room set up. Janice and I later checked the Needham site one last time and returned unused boxes to U-Haul. We also discovered that our unit is in a dead zone for cell phone service because of surrounding buildings. Once our land line is up, that’s not a problem, but it was while we were waiting to meet people!

On a blustery Sunday night, Janice and I met college chum Ben P.S. for dinner at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square, Cambridge, because he’s in town for a major physics conference.

Janice had a shorter commute to work yesterday, while I waited for a technician from Verizon to reinstall our FiOS (telephone, cable television, and Internet) service. (We’re still trying to get our DVD and VHS players and Wii to work.) Fortunately, I had enough boxes to deal with that I hardly noticed their absence, even during the Oscars. I’m glad that The Artist won the Academy Award for Best Picture, since it’s the one nominee that I had seen.

We still have a lot of unpacking to do, mainly for the two offices. Having more bathrooms is nice, as is a more modern space with a patio. I’ll have to get used to parking again in a crowded lot and to my new routes to work. I hope our higher rent and incidental expenses — I still need to get to a hardware store, buy more bookcases, and find outdoor storage for snow shovels — will be offset by more reliable maintenance.

While we already know some of the restaurants on Moody Street, Janice and I look forward to again exploring the northwestern quadrant of Boston’s suburbs!

Santa’s sleigh

2011 Honda Fit Sport
My new vehicle

On Saturday, 10 December 2011, Janice’s parents, her youngest sister Melinda, and Melinda’s children Amanda and Joshua came over to celebrate Janice’s birthday and to bake holiday cookies.

I took my nephew Josh to New England Comics and Newbury Comics in Norwood, Massachusetts. I later took Josh and Amanda to a talk about birds of prey at the local library, and the family had dinner together at Mick Morgan’s pub. We’ll be seeing them around Christmas.

In addition to housecleaning and shopping for gifts for family, friends, gamers, and co-workers, I’ve been dealing with automotive issues. A few weeks ago, I had some expensive repairs and maintenance done on my 1998 Honda Civic coupe. On my way from the local dump to work yesterday morning, my car started overheating.

I called into work and brought my beat-up green car (which I had bought used in 2000) to Boch Honda in Norwood. I’ve had to postpone several meetings to later this week. Another coolant hose had come loose, and more problems were likely coming soon. While waiting for the assessment, I went into the dealer area and eventually bought a 2011 Honda Fit Sport.

My family and friends are much more excited than I am about the new vehicle, which I consider merely a means to get from Point A to Point B in relative safety and comfort. I’m not a fan of gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles and the distracted soccer moms or cellphone-using drivers behind the wheel. Still, the Fit is pretty stylish.

I had hoped to nurse the Civic through another harsh New England winter. Ice, salt, potholes, and tree sap take their toll. In 12 years here, I’ve been hit several times — never my fault — and the engine may have had another 100,000 miles in it. I was also in no hurry to begin making car payments anew, but repair bills were starting to become bigger and more frequent.

My red Fit has more passenger and cargo space than the Civic, despite being about the same compact-car length. Although most of my driving is stop-and-go, short-distance commuting with the occasional out-of-state trip to visit family, I hope to get good mileage. As of this writing, the four-door hatchback has only 17 miles on it so far.

What do you think I should name my new car? I’m asking only readers of this blog! I nicknamed my first car, a used red Chevy Cavalier, the Millennium Falcon for its utility and temperament. I sometimes called my Civic a “Runabout,” after Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s long-range shuttlecraft.

Thanksgiving 2011

Norman Rockwell's vision of America
Thanksgiving by Norman Rockwell

On Wednesday, 23 November 2011, Janice and I drove down to my parents’ home in Virginia. We passed through heavy rain, but the traffic wasn’t too bad. We stopped for lunch at Boston Market, and my mother had a good dinner waiting for us. We watched Jeopardy and talked about politics, history, and travel.

On Thanksgiving, my brother Peter, his wife Kelly, their two daughters, and his mother-in-law Maureen joined us for the traditional holiday feast. I’ll to spend the weeks before Christmas trying to work off the turkey, potatoes, and desserts.

In response to one of my nieces, I’m thankful to live in a country where there is still freedom and opportunity, despite political squabbles and economic stress, and to be able to spend time with family and good food.

The weather was warm and pleasant, so we got to play badminton and horseshoes with my energetic nieces. The next day, Peter returned to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and we did some yard work, played volleyball in shirtsleeves, and of course, ate some more.

On Saturday, Janice and I visited her grandmother in Pennsylvania. We ate another all-American meal at Saville’s Diner before returning to the road. Even with heavy traffic, a detour, and stopping for dinner at Cracker Barrel, we made better time than in many other years.

Since then, I’ve been catching up on reading (R.I.P. “Pern” author Anne McCaffrey), genre TV (including the end of the fun Batman and the Brave and the Bold, as well as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movie marathons on cable), and role-playing games (updates and reviews to come).