Wednesday, November 27, 2002

To Bountiful, Redux
What I did on My Thanksgiving Vacation. So Far.

Part One:

After three hours of sleep and an all-nighter frantically grading student finals and writing progress reports, baby swaddled, Darcie in the back seat watching over her, trunk luggage-full, we piled into the car at ten on Saturday morning and drove off down 91, to the Merrit Parkway and then to Bridgeport, Connecticut by noon, where Darcie's younger sister, Alicia, lives with her fiancee Matt.

Growing up, Alicia was the poised one, pretty, personable, talented and popular; a Winter Carnival Queen (essentially Miss Brattleboro; she wrote a short essay, played piano and, due to a pending concern about the sexism inherent in swimsuit competitions, joined her co-contestants in tennis outfit competition to win a decent scholarship) whose boyfriends were so forgettable her family remembers them by the upscale cars they drove. She and Matt met on the management track at Ernst & Young; she left a year or so ago to write position papers for the Financial Accounting Standards Board. He drives a VW Passat. She used to drive a VW Beetle, and now drives an Altima, I think. To be fair, now that we have a baby, we drive an '02 Toyota Camry, the most stereotypical family car on the market. But for comparison's sake, I also still have an eyesore of a rusting-out conversion van in the driveway, maroon with wooden interior. And Darcie's parents drive older Saabs.

Alicia and Matt are accountants, yuppies, anomalies (Darcie and Alicia grew up surrounded by cows and goats; the family is otherwise made up of farm stock and teachers). He's very conservative, from a somehow softer version of a traditional Italian background than one imagines in the stereotype, a bit distant from the down-to-earth values the "rest of us" share...but, to be fair, I was an upper middle class suburbanite once too, and I got over it. They are the only people I know who live in a condo. They have leather couches which their bug-eyed dog Bruno isn't allowed on. They stay home on weekends to play the new X-box game together. If you can't tell, I like Matt and Alicia.

They cooed at the baby for a while (they were the first people I've met so far who weren't comfortable with breastfeeding in their presence, so Darcie did that in the other room, but Matt was fascinated by the kid) and then Matt and I picked up lunch from a great cheap burgeranddog joint around the corner, the kind that serves only six things and does them really well. The two of them are on the Atkins diet together, so they ordered multiple dogs and burgers with the works, then scraped it all off and ate only the meat.

They're planning on getting married...sometime after Matt finalizes his decision to leave his current job and spend three years in law school.

Part Two:
Leaving on a Jet Plane

Narrowing in on Laguardia took all day, really. Originally, we had thought about going down all week, gradually, on Amtrak, but the sleeping berth cost far too much money -- it would have been almost two thousand dollars (!) for the three of us round trip. We could have flown out of Hartford, but the direct flights were twice as expensive from there, and a two-leg flight is out of the question, as Darcie gets airsick, and we had nightmares about the baby screaming for four hours straight while our fellow passengers pretended it was all okay until they snapped and tried to flush us down the tin lavatory toilets.

From Matt and Alicia's at 4:00 back to the Merritt Parkway and an airport shuttle waiting in a carpark in Norwalk by 5:00; from there to Laguardia with a nice but quiet couple who didn't speak much English. I like to plan enough time for things to go horribly wrong before they resolve themselves; the problem with this approach is that when everything goes smoothly, you're looking at a three hour wait at a Starbucks in the airport, trying not to spill on the baby while people smile at the young family unit.

Too many grande vanilla lattes and diaper changes later we were on an almost empty plane with the last six rows entirely to ourselves. The baby slept through the whole flight. So did Darcie. I did all the crosswords in Sky in about 30 minutes and read an engrossing article about Paul Simon (the musician, not the politican with the bow ties), the usual decent short fiction, prim and overly metered poetry, and great cartoons in the latest issue of The New Yorker.

When you get on the plane it's boarding, not enplaning or just planing, yet when you get off, for some reason, it's deplaning. We deplaned at West Palm Beach just before 11:00 p.m., gathered in our baggage, took a shuttle bus to the car rental agency, overtipped the shuttle driver, and drove off in the rental, one of those retro-looking PT Cruisers, into the warm air of curiously quiet Saturday night in mid-coastal Florida.

Late-night impressions of the Plaza Inn of Palm Beach are hazy, mostly an ancient elevator and a purple glass chandelier throwing shadows on a room threadbare but of the highest seaside poshness and class, like an ancient society dowager in her finest 30 year old dress. The king bed was soft and fit the three of us.

Coming Soon:

Hy and Florence

Aunt Lil

posted by boyhowdy | 9:44 PM |

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