Friday, July 10, 2009

Excess in everything, moderation is for monks

That's what they call it, the semi-annual party that is currently held in Virginia. Friends I met in college (which means we've known each other 20 years or so – scary, isn't it?), friends they met in grad schools, and locals they met along the way ... as time goes on, there is less drinking by the regulars (which is a good thing, we were a pretty scary group back in the day) but usually enough done by the unsuspecting locals. And there are epic amounts of food. I'm surprised that their septic system survives. (One year they actually rented Port-o-Lets.)


The trip commences. Cloudy day, which is great for an early start, because it means glasses are OK for most of the trip. (I can switch between those and prescription sunglasses all right, but it's obviously not as easy as taking sunglasses on/off.) Off we go out I-70, which distresses the navigation system because she wants us to go a different way. (This is pretty much the story until we're on I-64. At that point, she realizes that because the hotel is on I-64, we're probably heading in the right direction.)

Not a bad drive, as drives go. A little slow, but we miss rush hour in whatever cities happen to lie between here and there. (Not many.) The hybrid doesn't like the mountains, so we lose a bit of time there. About 45 mpg on the trip, which is nice, even though every place east of Indy has cheaper gas than we do.

Somewhere along US-35, we see rest area cat. He's sitting outside the rest area, watching people going in, presumably to ensure they don't cause trouble. He has no time to be petted, but instead settles himself on his side where he can still watch the entrance. Nice work if you can get it.

We listen to baseball about half the trip. The Padres are nice enough to entice bees to delay their game so that it finishes after the 7:00 games start. Naturally, when we arrive and share the news, people have no idea what we're talking about. Apparently bee delays are not common.

Arrive at the hotel, I check in, we head out to the house, we eat some fried stuff and catch up with people. I head back to the hotel, log on, and sleep.


The last day for party prep. I'm back at the house around noon. The gravel arrives about 12:30. Our hosts have a gravel driveway that is such in name only at the base and head of the drive. The newly-arriving gravel is to be spread at each end.

The kind driver does what he can to distribute it somewhat reasonably at each end, although we end up with a nice pile at the base of the driveway. Rakes and shovels in hand, we begin.

It's clear after not much time that most of us are desk people, not outdoor people. The gravel weighs more and more as the task continues, although thankfully it did not rain. Apparently this makes things much worse. I'm the first to concede defeat, so I go inside and sit in front of the laptop, carefully managing my tycoon teams and mafia whilst the others foolishly pretend they're in the 20s.

Eventually it's all spread adequately, so food prep begins. Chopping, dicing, deboning ... there's usually enough food for three times the number of guests that show up, but it's all fun stuff to cook and to eat. (Also, most of us worked in the cafeteria at one of the dorms at Purdue, which is where we met, so we had institutional experience prior to having our own kitchens. Of course it doesn't help a ton, but at least we'd been exposed to a number of kinds of food and ways to cook it. I miss the convection ovens.)

Eating, talking, and sending off one of the families. Apparently they had a birthday party in Baltimore on Saturday. This is kind of like planning movie night during the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, but they're long-timers, so somewhat forgiven. (Plus they're coming back on Sunday.) Late night Friday means movie night, so this time it's Superbad. Surprisingly funny, but then again I think it's the atmosphere. Perhaps not so funny watching it myself.

Back to the hotel, two of us this time. We see a few deer on the road back to civilization; it's a state highway, so the speed limit is 55, but it's a winding two-lane road in the dark, so we don't go quite that speed once we've seen the deer. Most people use a little caution at night around there.

The other traveler checks himself in; he's trying to be more careful with money, so he's staying elsewhere Thursday and Sunday. Of course, he's delayed because the person at the front desk, well, isn't at the front desk when we arrive. Eventually he gets his room. (Separate rooms, of course. I prefer to sleep in my own room unless accompanied by a willing woman.)


Party day. We meet around 11 and head back to the house. Food is heating up and people are starting to show up. I stay outside for a bit and play bags ... we lose the first match, but our conquerors include the host, who has to attend to newly-arrived guests, so we stay and a new team takes their place. We run off four wins or so as I find a nice stroke (holding the bags vertically, a little backspin, aim right of the hole and watch them roll left and in), and then my teammate has to attend to ribs, so we step aside and I go back inside. Plus beer pong and such has started up, and I tend to stay away from those things, not being able to partake myself. (Having a non-drinker participate in a team drinking game can be a problem for his teammate. We did it once. I thought it was funny.)

The DSL is holding up nicely, so I go through a few weeks of OOTP and check my Facebook games. It's nice and cool inside, a pleasant change from the 90-degree heat ... but then again it's raining pretty much everywhere west of Virginia, so we're thankful.

Night comes, fireworks are launched, people drink more, and suddenly I have to build a fire. (Well, not entirely accurate. I have to light a fire. The fire was built yesterday. There are three or four resident pyros ... one is the host, and another is in Baltimore now, so that leaves me. I like fire.) The host lights it, I feed it, and the drunks sit near the fire for about 30 minutes or so until they realize they need to drink more. (I kind of built the fire hot. No one really sat near it.)

We burn some more wood (no weird things this time, like wood of questionable origin or strange chemicals that ought to burn well). The drunk people return, there are discussions about who ought and ought not to have been drinking where and when, most of them are sent inside to play more drinking games, and the rest of us hang out until 1. We leave the fire to burn itself out (it's designed for that), I get the very intoxicated traveling companion, and we return to the hotel. (The next day, he conceded he'd been rather drunk. He doesn't drink that much any more, but he certainly did on Saturday. We blame the mojitos.)


Post-party day 1. Locals are gone, people from Cincinnati have left, so there are three small groups here, and we're awaiting the return of the people who braved DC-area traffic on the 4th. Eating of random things, more Facebook, sports on TV. Another Grand Slam event, another Federer win ... we were somewhat limited in what we could watch because we swapped out their DVR for a better one, and of course that doesn't transfer the content. Oh well. Acrostic puzzle to finish, wrapping up things, goodbyes said, I head back to the hotel.


Time to head back. I swing into Richmond and pick up the traveler, and we head back to I-64 and west. Warmer weather this time, so the air is on and the mileage drops a touch.

Construction isn't bad, but an accident on the turnpike, I think, slows us down, costing us about an hour. Somewhere in the construction, though, we see a crew sanding down the surface of the road, or something ... except when we close on it, we see it's actually a car burning merrily on the side of the road. No obvious flames yet, but enough smoke to make driving hazardous. Everyone's slowed down in the single-lane traffic. Several cars have stopped to help, including a semi driver who looks like he's got an extinguisher, so we keep going.

US-35 is a nice four-lane divided highway in Ohio, but it's only two lanes for most of the West Virginia segment. Fortunately, they've upgraded part of it (the navigation system is horrified that we're driving through the grass and refuses to talk to us until we're back on the two-lane part) and are working on another part of it. Unfortunately, the middle section is unplanned and unscheduled. Tolls are going up to $2 on the turnpike in August. I'll be happy to double that if it means we get better roads soon.

Back home ... I drop off the traveler and arrive at last. The cats are a bit surprised to see me. Their usual cries of near starvation are useless now because of the care ems has taken; they were good to her and only left one small spot of cat puke that could easily have been created Monday. (A real hairball, too, and not the I'm-mad-at-you-here's-unchewed-food-to-clean-up kind.)

Unpack, clean up, and off to bed.

It was a lot of fun, but it's not something I'd care to do too often. Someday I might consider flying again, but only after the airport Gestapo have been removed and when US airlines remember that customer service is important.


  1. You realize that we will not be without the airport Gestapo in our lifetime. But if you like to have wishful thinking.... Improved customer service would be nice but money will always come first.

    I like the rest-stop cat, it is always funny to see domestic animals in such situations.

  2. I concede nothing. At some point people will realize that poorly-trained, uninformed pseudo-security does much less to prevent terrorism than it does to prevent commerce.

    You are correct, money does come first, which is why people need to keep in mind the current state of the airlines when they book flights. If you are concerned about price, first and foremost, the airlines that survive will be the cheap ones, in all senses of the word.

    It's too bad. I do like flying. I just don't like supporting businesses that are run so poorly.

  3. The thing is I am not willing to pay more than I need to for airline tickets. I guess I just accept the poor service as a concession to my traveling needs.

  4. Wait a sec. Where was the cat puke? I saw nothing!

  5. That's what I'm saying. It was behind the recliner closest to the sliding glass door ... and it was clearly a hairball, so it was probably just that whichever cat did it (I think it was Calle) managed to accumulate that much fur over the time I was gone, and left it for me after you were gone to show me how much she missed me.

  6. Oh. I did go over to the glass door to see what on God's Green Earth was making that racket on your roof....but I didn't see the hairball. I think you should put your "toxic" stickers back up.

  7. It's okay. I'm sure they left it after you were gone.

    I would guess the racket was squirrels.