The trip was very nice, as I expected. A whole bunch of things that I twitter on to Alex about now make sense to him. He thought Connecticut was very pretty and conceded that - should something turn him off California utterly - he could consider it as a place to live. Irony of ironies, by the end of the weekend, I was thinking that maybe Washington State would be better... More on that, later.
Anyways, we stayed with Brian for the first couple of days. He's got a nice apartment in Manchester, next door to a sizable cemetary (quiet neighbors, he says) but we didn't spend much time there as Brian took Alex and I out on what we called our "Near Death" tour of the town. The tour simply consisted of blasting through the old neighborhood and pointing out all the places we almost killed ourselves, either by vehicular suicide, teenage angst, or both. Amongst all the other little revelations, Alex now knows why I don't turn a hair at his occasional high-speed driving on the highway. As Stephen put it, our Lunatic Velocity (number of people in car, multiplied by miles per hour) was pretty steep in our high-school/college years.
While Jon was doing his best to re-enact some of the highlights of the tour - he was determining if his just-bought-that-morning Jeep had a governor on the engine - we were pulled over doing more than 110mph on I-384. Unsurprisingly, Jon was convinced that he was about to be arrested, possibly even shot. Frankly, if the notion worried him that much, perhaps he shouldn't have been driving so fast, hm? As it was, the cop wasn't able to clock Jon with the radar until Jon had managed to slow down to 85 (Jon saw the cop that crucial moment too late) so he merely got hit with a $300 ticket.
Of course, Jon complained that he's never pulled over - otherwise he would have many more tickets than he does. We all laughed at Alex's joke that the military has planted a chip in his head that summons State Troopers. We laughed clear until Brian got pulled over in Portland on Saturday afternoon for failing to signal a lane change - which wasn't true - and for going (as the cop put it) "a little too fast" which, translated, means: "I left my radar off but I really want to ticket you, anyways". Fortunately, Brian got away with just a written warning, but there was little laughter about Alex, The Cop Magnet after that.
Saturday night, the whole gang - Brian, Jon, Stephen, Asha, Alex and me - headed out to the movies and watched M:I-2. It was another sturdy example of Woo-Americana, and I'll get into that much later - probably another journal entry. Suffice to say it was certainly more entertaining that its predecessor.
Sunday and Monday, we were with Stephen and Asha Shipman who are amongst the ever-diminishing minority that doesn't own a television set. I feared Alex's brain was going to seize up, but it had already been eaten by the pollen, so I needn't have worried.
We had a very interesting visit to Stephen and Brian's office - they both work for the local Board of Ed - which occupies the former G. Fox building in downtown Hartford. For those of you who don't know, G. Fox is/was a large department store in New England - imagine something between Penney's and Macy's in terms of size and class. About half of the building has been converted into office space - all of it with that overcramped/underfunded air of civil bureaucracies everywhere - while the other half remains precisely as it was when G. Fox closed down and has been quietly decaying ever since...
A trip to the upper floors provided some great picture-fodder for Aragon - including cavernous rooms flooded with dusty sunlight and crumbling fixtures, and an utterly fabulous assemblage of walled-up escalators and an abandoned winter-grotto. The pictures I snapped away on my handy digital camera - about fifty in all - could be used for anything from the setting for a Brujah rant to a tale of spooooky hauntings. Additional pictures of New-England-Gothic brownstone churches and graveyards can only help. Yes, I went 3,000 miles for game materials, wanna make something of it?
In contrast to rampant retail-decay, the afternoon was spent down on the newly remodeled waterfront. The whole development - curvy walkways, grassy knolls, a scattering of historical markers - stank of desperate-expenditure-of-tax-revenues, but it was rather pretty, I must admit. Hartford, despite being a riverside town, has been cut off from the river because of the ill-advised placement of the crosstown highways - the owner of G. Fox had such political clout, she insisted that both highways have exits immediately adjacent to the storefront. But now that the city has been able to regain control of its destiny - so to to speak - they've been busily laying down pleasant little pedestrian routes and parks (trying to circumvent the highways, with some success) to the riverfront. As I said, it was quite nice. The day was sunny, but not too warm and - it being a Sunday afternoon in Hartford - very, very quiet.
Monday was a barbecue at the Shipman homestead, as per tradition and inclination. I'm afraid my hard-bitten reputation - which had managed to linger on the east coast (mostly because of my absence) - has been blasted to smithereens thanks to Ehlana. Ehlana is the seven-month-old daughter of Stephen and Brian's co-worker/boss, Bob. Ellie was as cute as a button, extremely well behaved and managed to have me wrapped around her chubby little finger in nothing flat. I believe there is photographic evidence of my playing with her - I must start negotiating for possession of the negatives. I blame Bob for the entire incident, as he is one of those chaps who immediately christens all acquaintances as 'Aunty/Uncle Whatever' to his daughter and I think the phrase 'Aunty Johanna' had some fundamental, bizarre, affect on my state of mind. For about four hours straight, I was a gurgling moron - unlike the baby...
Meredith managed to visit, briefly, but she was wiped out from going to the wedding of one of Stephen's ex-girlfriends over in Boston, and we didn't have too much to say to each other. I don't feel too guilty, as we saw each other just a couple of months ago at Sarah's wedding...
Alas, it was too early in the season for fireflies. Drat. And we were too broke to go to NYC. Ah well, Alex agreed we could go next time we come to the east coast, although I'm not sure when that will be - see rant on Southwest Airlines, further below.
Late Monday night, Alex and I got to talking - no big surprise, there. I think Alex was a little stunned by the strength of my desire to leave the Bay Area. Actually, I was a little surprised, too. Sure, I had spent a bit of time singing the praises of New England, but most of it derived primarily from the fact that it wasn't California. I am fond of Connecticut, always will be, but I'm slowly realizing that it might not be the best place for me to relocate to. I've gotten hooked on being near a big city and - sorry guys - Hartford ain't it. However, San Francisco ain't it, either.
So, of course, Port Townsend came up, again. We're still planning to go visit it over July 4th weekend - if we can find a hotel up there - and Alex and I chatted a little more seriously than we have been about what the work situation is like up there, cost of living, etc. To my utter non-surprise, Alex has been examining the job market up there and, in addition to the expected assortment of galleries (it's a big art/history town) and tourist industries, there are several small web shops and an ISP that are keeping away from Seattle rental rates. That, of course, perked me right up. I had mentally resigned myself to - if I was lucky - shuffling papers at a local gallery or hotel, if we moved up there. The possibility of a strong geek-culture (well, relatively strong, the town is only 7,000 people) was a big plus, in my eyes.
Then I pointed out that, hell, if we're serious about wanting to relocate up there, the best time for us to do it would be this summer, while Alex is on his terminal leave - he'll be drawing pay, but not working for six weeks. I suspect this occurred to Alex a while ago but, in his diplomatic way, he's been waiting for me to mention it. The practical upshot is that, come July 4 weekend, we don't see any harm in scattering a few resumes about the vicinity while we're up there.
I doubt it'll come to much - plans conceived in haste rarely do, and Alex and I tend to move at glacial speeds, as it is. Never mind the fact that we've got a roomate dependent on us for survival, Alex isn't entirely keen on leaving his family (although he much prefers west coast to east) and never mind what my parents would think... My mother has made vague noises about not wanting us to take their (potential) grandchild away from them, but I've got my own feelings about that, which I'm not going to get into just now...
All in all, a very informative chat was had in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. We'll see what - if anything - comes out of it.
I am done, done, done with flying economy airlines - at least for the moment. The trip east was via Kansas City and Baltimore, and westbound was punctuated by stops at Baltimore, Nashville and Las Vegas. Southwest Airlines' seating sharply defines the word 'snug' - most sharply in my lower back. The open-seating plan combined with a 'bring it all on board' attitude of the passengers makes for a very trying experience. Next time, I'll spend the extra $100 and wait for American to do their perennial east-coast special.
Alex and I arrived home very tired and a little cranky. Airline air/pollen/god knows had conspired to make Alex feel awful and I had a grotesque incident in Vegas involving a tick that must have made its acquaintance with me back in Connecticut but somehow managed to elude detection for 2,800 miles. All I will say is that it started a headache that hasn't quit yet, four hours later, and leave it at that. Great, now I'm gonna worry about Lyme disease.
I love Dave dearly - well, okay, I like him a lot - but man, oh man, the Aragon update could have waited until the next morning...
Pictures, for those who are curious, will be posted soon.