April 26, 2003

Spring Break Trip

We'd talked about flying some place warm and exotic for Zachary's spring break. As the deadline for DOG WARRIOR neared and I was far from done, that idea went by the wayside.

Just before Easter, Don announced that he had to go to Spain for the week that Zachary had Spring Break. I did the quick math. Five days of my son at home with no husband equals one slightly insane Wen. Day one would be okay, but by Day Three, he’d be clinging to me, whining “I’m BORED” no matter how many fun things we’d done that morning, hours or even minutes before.

Furthermore, I was showing signs of desperate flailing again on DOG WARRIOR. It would be good to brainstorm face to face with my first reader, Ann. Brainstorming usually equates to me trying to verbally explain why I’d did something in the first place, and where I was trying to get to, with lots of ‘oh, that contradicts what you said in x book’ and ‘that doesn’t make sense’ on top of ‘what if this happens’ suggestions.

So I decided it was time to visit Pittsburgh. I made reservations on Friday, put a hold on mail Saturday, kenneled the cats on Sunday, and dropped Don off at the airport shuttle bus Monday morning and we were on our way!!! I drove all twelve hours of the trip, starting at 10:00 leave the house so Don wouldn’t arrive at the airport too early (10:00 was a compromise) and arrived in Cranberry Township around 10:00 at night with no stops longer than ten minutes. We had a record of three bathroom emergencies – Mom I’ve got to go NOW! On the way home I drastically cut how much he had to drink!

We set up camp at the Residence Inn in Cranberry. Yes, the same one from ALIEN TASTE. I got a two-bedroom suite, with a desk for writing in my bedroom and a whole living room between me and the noise that Zachary puts out.

Tuesday I spent a good portion of the day with my folks, catching up with them. My mom retired last year from being a school teacher, and my father is now seventy, but my folks don’t seem to know how to slow down. They’ve got a litter of Labrador puppies, a rescued mustang from Neveda they’ve adopted, a mini-storage business that fuels summer yard sales (why anyone stores stuff they later abandon, I’ll never know), a garden hobby ranging across their sixty-acre farm (they put in a pond two summers ago, and this year they decided to plant fast growing pines along the fence line to replace the ones that the neighbor cut down), and so on. The newest hobby is taking old photos, scanning them, and then printing them out on some special paper to somehow affix to slate tiles for hanging. They’re actually fairly cool, but what really knocked me over was the photos they were using.

Where did they get all the old photos???? Well, it turned out that my mom had lots of old photos she never shared with us kids, plus ones she got off her parents when they died, and oh, yes, they’d found some old negatives and had them printed, and then the historical society saw the results of their work and loaned old photos so they could make slates to sell at the fund raisers. Josh, tons of cool pictures. One had my grandmother Spencer with her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother!

Best yet, my mom had most of these scanned and on her computer – which had a CD-R drive. WHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! A quick stop at Staples and I taught my mom how to copy files to her CD-R drive! (Of course grabbing a copy of everything for myself.) I hope to set up a Spencer website of old family photos later this summer.

Late in the afternoon, I left my son with grandma and headed down to Dormont to visit with Ann. They’ve got Fort Pitt bridge torn to shreds, but I needed the Liberty Bridge to get to her house so this wasn’t a problem. We went to a favorite Indian place for the buffet and talked, talked, talked. Unfortunately, on the way home I forgot about the construction. Ann’s one-way street let’s out on a street that convenient to drop onto Banksville road which merges with 279 right before it goes through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and out onto the Fort Pitt Bridge. Oops. Luckily it was fairly easy to loop around to the West End Bridge and catch 279 north from there.

Zachary, however, had not been happy to be left with his grandmother. He’s a rabid fan of the anime lineup on Cartoon Network’s afternoon show, Toonami. He’d missed all his shows because my mom and dad don’t have cable. Also he’s not crazy about my moms cooking. (And he HATES sleeping over because my mom has lots of house spiders!)

To make amends to Zachary, we go swimming the next morning. (Hot tub – ohhh ahhh) After breakfast at McDonalds (his favorite) and a stop at B&N (Mom to check on BITTER WATERS – not, not in yet – and him for his favorite magazine), and then a promise that he won’t be left at grandmothers during Toonami, he’s a happy camper again…..well, at least until Aunt Heidi shows up. My sister is a beautician and can cut a squirmy, complaining kid’s hair with ease. Since the last attempt to have someone else to cut his hair ended with Mom overtipping by five dollars, the child grounded for a week, and that store closing – well okay, so maybe it closing was just coincidence – Heidi still is the only one that cuts his hair even though she’s nearly 600 miles away. (Yes, yes, he had very long hair.)

My mother-in-law comes over to visit. My mom’s house is much better suited for Zachary since he can go outside and play with the dogs. (Sancho, who is like twelve, greeted me when he drove up and I fed him the last of the McDonald’s breakfast. Mom once again tried to get me to take him home with us. Sigh. Otis, the ten-month-old puppy, kept licking my fingers in attempt to be petted. The girls were all either in their kennels or with puppies.) I was going to go over to her place in the morning, but she’d forgotten about a hair appointment, and I needed to be at my moms in the afteroon to catch Heidi for the hair cut. She made the mistake of asking my mom what she was doing to keep herself busy now that she’s retired – she came away with three or four slates ordered. She also tells Zachary about her new kitten, replacing her 16 year old cat Casey that she had to put down. Zachary immediately wanted to go to Memaw’s house to play with the kitten.

After the haircut I dashed back to the hotel to be with Ann again to hammer down more plotline. We ordered Chinese and Ann went out to pick it up – and Zachary stripped naked for some reason!!! I just got his clothes back on when Ann returned. After Ann left for the night, Zachary vanished again and came back with all the skirt hangers clipped for him. HANGER BOY!!! (No, I don’t understand.)

Thursday we checked B&N and did one last round with Ann, and then went out to dinner with my folks at the Watering Hole. This is my folk’s favorite place to eat, located at the 18th hole of the local golf course. It’s claim to fame is its fried fish sandwiches. Once again, Zachary isn’t too happy, but we push through it. Afterwards, we stop at my mother-in-laws to play with the kitten. It’s a very frisky tabby she calls Ginger. It bounced around the room in a way I’d forgotten how kittens moved.

Back to the room to write and pack. Zachary refuses to go to bed. Sigh. Around 11:00 p.m. I finally get him to sleep.

Friday we start out slightly late, hitting the road at 9:00. I’ve decided to cut across I-80, and then cut up to I-84 through CT instead of going up I-79 to I-90 across NY. Ann says this is a much shorter way. It is very pretty, but OH MY GOSH THE MOUNTAINS!!!

Now, you have to understand I’ve been living in the flats of MA around Boston, where there is like ONE hill for the last three years. I’d forgotten what its like to zip down a mountain at 65 mph (okay, 78 mph, I’m a speed demon) and make a sharp bend while tractor trailers carrying loads of granite jockey around you. Wooo Whhheeee! Luckily it was a very nice day, so the drive was pleasant, but I’m only going to do that again if the weather is good.

Also, what is it about CT???? They say “Food, Gas at this exit” but when you get off, it’s no where to be found. And if you do manage to find it, there’s no clue how to get back to the highway! Strike CT off the list of places I’d be willing to live. (I know, it’s a flakey reason, but one needs to start somewhere!)

The conversation home is also odd. Zachary is full of questions, and proceeds to give my answers different spins. Oddest one. I point out that they’ve cut away a BIG hill to put in four lanes of traffic. Zachary comments “Oh, the mountain evolved, just like Pokemon.” “No, honey, they used bulldozers and backhoes and dynamite to clear out the rock and haul it away.” “Oh, you use bulldozers to evolve mountains.” I gave up. He’d have to go into biology and avoid geology as career choices.

The route isn’t that noticeably shorter, either. We left at 9:00 and hit Framingham by 7:30 to be in the door at 8:00.

But there is this slight problem. Don had armed the security system – he always is the one that arms it. I suddenly realize that I don’t know how to disarm it! I start calling him – he should have arrived at Logan by then – should be heading home – BETTER be home already. He calls me when I’m five miles from home to say he just got home, and had triggered the alarm himself!

8:00, in the door. YEAH.

I ordered Chinese, and watch EXCEL SAGA to unwind.

It's good to be home.

Posted by wen at April 26, 2003 12:27 PM

I have been checking the local B&N for about a week now and Bitter Waters has still to arrive. They have at least begun to acknowledge that they have it on order. ;-)

Posted by: Jonathan at April 27, 2003 06:29 PM