Pencil Me In
The call came just in time, because the next morning I was supposed to go to auditions for Annie in Saratoga, in response to a desperate call for warm male bodies from my friend and Evil Twin Howard, who was producing the show. And since the director is someone I knew and admired, having been backstage for two and onstage for one show with him. I went online and looked up the run for Annie, and sure enough the second to last weekend was June 4-6. So the next morning I called the producer to let him know that darn it I couldn't be in the show after all.
And took a look through my Flagrant Flier miles to see how I could make it financially plausible. As it turned out, I had enough miles on Alaska to snag a business class ticket on American. Priceline found me $50/night accommodations near BWI and Avis was kind enough to give me my old Microsoft preferred customer rate. Even better, when the airline tickets arrived, they said First Class - AA doesn't have business class on the flights I was taking, so they upgraded me.
It was a long wait from February till June.
Since my sister had done it to me on my 50th, I had been sending her a birthday card a month since she turned 49. Each card was the humorous "you're how old?" variety. One month I sent her the same card every week - it said something about old people and memory. I forget exactly what.
A month before her Big Day, I shipped her present, with big "don't open until your birthday" signs inside. I did this primarily to taunt her, but also to plant the idea in her head that if I was coming out there for her birthday, I would have held onto her gift till I got there.
Up, Up and Away
June 3 finally arrived, my flight left SJC at about noon, and was uneventful all the way to Chicago except for when I had to get up to go to the restroom and in my transit from the window seat to the aisle somehow the full glass of ice water which had been on the tray between the seats found itself upside-down on the aisle seat. Even though this was supposed to be first class, there was very little room between me and the seat in front of me. While I'm on that harrangue, the trays, which are inside the seat arms, would not push out far enough to get past my tummy. It is a large tummy, but not that large.
One of the nice things about the flight is they served cups of mixed nuts which had been nuked in the microwave. A nice touch. On one leg of my flight an exceptionally attractive flight attendant held the tray out to me and asked "would you like warm nuts?" I almost answered that I already had a couple, thanks to her, but just nodded instead.
One nice thing about being towards the front of First Class is the Obligatory Screaming Baby is not seated right behind you. But the obnoxious person with the cell phone addiction is, and that may be worse.
But I digress.
The trip went smoothly, the rental car was ready and waiting, they even had printed directions to the hotel for me. The hotel had my reservation, and by this time it was about midnight local time so I crashed.
Got up at about 7 am local time, not feeling particularly lagged. The party was not till 5:30 that night, so I had breakfast and drove into the city and hung around the Inner Harbor all day. Photos are online at http://www.howeird.com/gallery/Baltimore060404
Sometime during the morning I whipped out my cell phone, the one with the Bay Area caller ID tag, and sung Happy Birthday into sister's answering machine. More misdirection - I figured she would see the 650 area code on her machine and "know" I was still on the Left Coast. Also, I waited till it was about the time I would be getting ready for work (this was Friday, after all), had I been going.
Made a couple of seriously wrong turns on my way back to the hotel, passing by Edgar Allen Poe house and several blocks of burned-out tenement buildings. With the help of my AAA map and no help from Baltimore traffic, I managed to get to the hotel in time to change and head out for the party.
Got there fashionably late (maybe 5-10 minutes) and was met by the birthday girl's husband and son, my baby sister and her husband from Poulsbo, WA, an aunt and uncle and their eldest son from NYC , my big sister's husband all the way from Israel (he's retired, she isn't), and Baltmore brother-in-law's brother-in-law and his daughter. After a little while another aunt from NYC and her son, his wife and their son arrived.
And finally the birthday girl showed up, flanked by the neighbor she calls her adopted son, his wife and their son.
Sister looked around the room quickly, said something along the lines of "hi, good to see you", turned around and headed towards the door. Her neighbors turned her back around and she joined the party. It was all an act. She was surprised to see us all. Or most of us. But she tried hard not to show it.
It was a nice family gathering. We could have used the remaining sister and the two parental units, but when it was time to make reservations, Mom & Dad were having some medical issues which prevented them from traveling. They are okay now, but with the insecurity idiocy in airports, they're not inclined to fly anywhere these days.
Brother-in-law and the neighbors put together a nice spread, way more food than we were able to put more than a small dent in.
Photos of the party are online at http://www.howeird.com/gallery/Romani060404
We had to be out of the party room by a certain time, so a bunch of us drove around to the apartment and sat in the livingroom and schmoozed till about 1 am. Something like that. Lots of photos got passed around.
The flight back was through DFW this time, and I have to say the Dallas airport is way nicer, cleaner and better thought out than O'Hare. Better food, too. Thanks to creative flight schedule planning, all four of my flights arrived early, a couple of them so early we had to wait for the gate to be free, or land at a new gate. So even though we landed early, we didn't get out of the plane early.
Got home, and my first thought was now I don't have anything to look forward to. It was The major Event of my year, and a tough act to follow.