I'm back from a great trip to Georgia to attend Brian and Kristen's wedding. Loads of fun and love flowed everywhere. I made the trip solo, leaving Colleen, Grady and Liam home, which was disappointing, but made it all much easier for this quick cross-country jaunt. Below are lots of daily details, beginning Thursday, April 15. I posted pictures from the weekend.
Thursday, April 15:
My flight left at 12:30 p.m., so I had some time alone in the house, which is a very RARE occurrence. It was nice, but a bit rushed because the artist that painted Dualities (the Hawthorne Bridge painting) emailed me the night before asking if I'd like to have this painting displayed in a show he was putting on Friday night. I really like Phil Fake, so drove the picture over to his house. I wished I could have gone to his show on Friday night. (Interesting note: Phil Fake painted Dualities and Frank Funk painted our interior walls.)
I had Northwest Airlines first class upgrade coupons, so I was hopeful I could have a luxurious trip to Atlanta. I was wait listed on my leg to Minneapolis, so when they began boarding the flight, I gave up hope and sat in my assigned 18-C seat. Several minutes later a flight attendant came and asked if I would move. "To where?" "Seat 1-A." Sweet! And, I didn't even have to surrender the upgrade coupon.
A nice lady was sitting next to me, and when she pulled out her Tablet PC, I started talking to her about it. She was well-versed in the features of the Tablet PC, so when I asked more technically-inclined questions, she asked where I worked. I explained, and then asked where she did. Microsoft. Oh well, so much for those Tablet PC sales!
When I got to Minneapolis, I checked to see if I could get in first class again. It was full, so I tried to board, but the machine rejected my 8-C seat. The agent in Portland had made some mistake when issuing me the late first class ticket and the rest of my trip was wiped from their system, including my return flight. The gate agent in Minneapolis apologized and put me in a roomy exit row, despite me hearing her get testy with another passenger who was insistent he was supposed to be in an exit row. "Sir, all exit seats are full." Five minutes later, she issued me an exit seat. Makes you wonder.
I arrived in Atlanta at 10:00 p.m. My bag was the third one to plop onto the baggage conveyor belt, and then I hopped on the Days Inn Airport West shuttle and was taken to the worst hotel I've ever stayed in. But, I only paid $45, so I didn't complain about the lumpy pillows, the dirty carpets the broken TV remote, or the slanted sink. Though, I did have to fight to get a non-smoking room even though my confirmation page clearly said I had reserved a non-smoking room. I told the registration lady that I refused to stay at this hotel if it didn't have a non-smoking room, and that I'd let the Days Inn management know about it, and then I asked for her last name -- magically a non-smoking room became available.
Friday, April 16:
I stayed up late, because I was still on Pacific Time, but at 2:00 a.m. when I decided to go to sleep, I realized the hotel was about 15 yards from I-85, and the traffic was LOUD. Amazing how many people honk their horn when driving along. I didn't fall asleep soundly until 5:00 a.m., and then woke at 9:45 a.m. Check out was 11:00, and I milked that for all it was worth. The shuttle drove me back to the airport where I picked up my compact rental car, and I was on my way to Athens.
It took two hours to drive the 70 miles, including a stop at a grocery store to buy gatorade and ear plugs. When I got into Athens, I was unsure if the directions to the hotel were accurate, because I was on the business route instead of the bypass, so I stopped at a liquor store to ask. The young guy working the counter knew exactly where the Foundry Park Inn was, and gave me detailed directions even though I was about 10 miles from it. Even down to the weird turn into the Foundry's parking lot after the third light on Thomas St.
I saw a black car parked at the registration house and a young woman going in the door. I wasn't sure it was Katy, so I gave a feeble honk-honk. She didn't turn around, so I wasn't sure. I was happy to see my whole family and Erik were in the registration office when I opened the door. They had arrived the exact same time I did! This, after 8 hours of driving to Charlotte the day before and then 3.5 hours to Athens.
We checked into our beautiful, adjoining rooms, and I looked at a great little album of pictures from my parents' New Zealand vacation from a few weeks ago. My parents, Katy, Erik and I then headed down to the brewery on the property to have lunch with Frank. While we sat, Ellen, Brian, Jean, Karen, Pat and Chris all came to join us. It was fun. The rehearsal dinner was beginning at 6:30, so after lunch, we had a few hours to kill and we spent it walking in downtown Athens. It's a cute college town full of restaurants, clothing stores, jewelry stores and University of Georgia bulldog decorations. Seemed everyone but me was shopping for Reef flip-flops, a trend Erik has started in the Beauregard family.
We walked back to the hotel and everyone napped but me. We men debated what to where -- coat, tie? We went with coat, no tie. Erik didn't wear a coat, but looked fine. The Connells are not a formal bunch, so our dress was very appropriate. The rehearsal dinner took place in the old brick structure on the Foundry Park Inn's grounds, that also houses the brewery and a couple of other shops. The room was great -- exposed brick with post & beam ceilings. Fresh Air BBQ supplied the food, and boy was it GREAT. Pulled pork, beef ribs and chicken.
Frank and Ellen made some moving comments, and Brian got up to hand out his groomsmen gifts (among them a Leatherman tool inscribed with the groomsmens' initials, something I did for my groomsmen back in 1998!). Brian moved me when he spoke about feeling lucky to have men in his life with whom he can share fun times and serious times, and when he and Patrick (his twin brother) hugged twice as long as he hugged his other groomsmen. I've always been curious about the close relationship twins must share. Everything Brian and Patrick do confirm for me that it must be a tremendously rewarding experience.
After the dinner, we all went down to the courtyard where a bluegrass band was playing some great music. Brian knew the lead singer, so had arranged for the musically inclined wedding guests to get up on stage and join in, and fill the band's break time with some Organic Groove Farmers, Deep Ocean Project and Cornbred music. Those are bands that some combination of Connell brothers have all been in over the years, with Cornbred still active in Portland, OR.
We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I think over the course of the evening I had 9 or 10 Bud Lights. I was feeling GREAT! :) I got to bed about midnight and about 2:00 a.m., I got up in the pitch black and stumbled into the bathroom unable to find the light switch. I had to orient myself by feeling around.
Saturday, April 17:
I had remembered to take my vitamins and some aspirin before heading to bed the night before, so I woke up feeling refreshed. My earplugs worked perfectly, and I had achieved an uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep. Everyone went out to breakfast, but I decided to stay in the room to check email and shower. My dad had discovered a weak Wi-Fi signal, so I intermittently had up to 8 mbps of internet access. Much better than the dial-up 28.8 Kbps the day before. (The theme of this paragraph is 8, don't you think?)
With a bunch of time on our hands before we were due at the church, we walked downtown again. My dad bought a shirt that matched the one he liked so much of Erik's. If he had bought the same shorts Erik did the day before, they would have been twins, right down to the Reef flip-flops they were both wearing.
Katy and Erik went back to the hotel, my mom and dad went to walk the UGA campus, and I was left to wander on my own. I chose to concentrate on the architecture of the city, and took some pictures of the church spires, ornate cupolas and impressive columns. I came upon a huge gathering of middle-eastern folks all dressed to the nines, including the little children all in suits or dresses. There was no visible force for this gathering -- no band, wedding or ceremony of any kind. They all just were laughing and chatting in a giant courtyard. Even when I climbed to the top of a parking structure to take in a view, families had laid out blankets in empty parking spots to enjoy picnic lunches. It seemed to be a very happy day for everyone; it made me happy to witness it all.
Across the street from our hotel was the Athens Welcome Center. I stopped in because it was housed in the oldest standing structure in Athens -- a house built in 1820. It was very interesting. I found out the meaning behind "good night, sleep tight." Mattresses were supported in the early to mid 1800s with a network of ropes. Every once in a while, the ropes had to be tightened with a hand tool.
Only one door from the original house remained (they built more using it as a reference), and I learned it is one of the earliest examples of the cross-and-bible style doors. It's six panels -- two small ones up top, two elongated ones in the middle, and two wide ones at the bottom. The connectors form a cross up top and an open bible at the bottom. I was happy to see the interior doors at our home in Oregon are of the same design, so I was able to illustrate it for Colleen.
We met back at the hotel and got dressed for the wedding. The Connells had arranged for a shuttle to take hotel guests to the church, reception and back to the hotel, so we met the shuttle in the parking lot around 3:00. The shuttle was new, clean and comfortable.
The wedding was a beautiful affair. Father Ryan, who taught Brian and Patrick at St. Joe's Prep in Pennsylvania, and is now teaching at Georgetown University, had traveled to perform the ceremony. It was evident he had a lot of love for Brian, and made it a warm and personal mass.
Kristen looked beautiful, with her sparkling wedding dress, and Brian was handsome in his tux. I'm always left wondering when the couple is actually married if the priest doesn't announce, "I now pronounce you husband and wife." In this wedding, it was "You may now kiss the bride." With 8 bridesmaids and groomsmen, Kristen and Brian looked well supported in their new endeavor.
We took the shuttle a few miles to the reception, passing stately fraternity and sorority houses that gave Erik and me occasion to tell each other the derogatory names our respective fraternities had for some of the sororities. Hee-hee. Turns out the reception was in a mansion nestled among of all these stately Greek houses.
The cake was in the entry hallway and all the rooms were open to us, but the activity was all in the back garden where a big tent was set up. The bar was close to the house, and the dance floor was at the far end of the tent. After auditioning many local bands, Brian and Kristen decided to hire a DJ. I guess being musicians themselves, Brian and Kristen have a very high standard for live music. The DJ played good music and was appropriately understated.
Katy, Erik and I were assigned to table #2, along with Brian's siblings and their spouses. So, Tim, Claire, Patrick, Melissa (technically a fiancee until August), Amy and Curtis. It made for a lively dinner, and we were able to egg Patrick on about his nervousness in delivering the best man speech. He took it well, and did VERY well. His theme was how he uses Brian as a reference in his life for what a relationship should be and how one should live one's life. It was very touching.
Before I knew it, it was 9:30 and the shuttle was waiting to take guests back to the Foundry Park Inn. The wedding party and most of the other wedding guests stayed a bit later, but we had run out of gas and hopped on the first shuttle.
My flight on Sunday was scheduled to leave at 6:20 a.m., so my plan was to get a few hours of sleep and take off at 3:30 for the 70 mile journey back to the Atlanta airport, hoping to arrive by 5:00 a.m., which would give me enough time to drop off the rental car and get through security. (Apologies for the run-on sentence.) Sometime in the evening I got it in my head that I'd spend an hour or so packing and talking with my family, then leaving to spend the night at the airport. And, that's what I did. I left at 10:45 p.m. and got to the car rental return at midnight. Along that drive, I stopped at a Wendys and had a delicious chicken strip meal. It satiated me for the next 18 hours, except for liquids on my flights and layover.
Sunday, April 18:
After returning my car, and being pleased that there were no excessive additional fees, I hopped on the shuttle to the terminal. I was surprised to find the entire airport, including baggage handling and ticket counters, shut down at a little past midnight. There was no way to get a boarding pass (even the self-service check-ins were shut down) to camp out at the gate. Great, I thought, where am I going to find a comfortable place to sit for the next 6.5 hours?
That's when I came upon an oasis of leather couches and chairs. Four 25-foot ficus trees anchored corners of this huge glass-domed room, around which leather-clad furniture stations were set. I found the last unoccupied love seat, spread my stuff out and dragged a chair over to use as an ottoman. It was then I realized I should have prioritized sitting close to a power outlet, because I'd be able to organize all the pictures I took and listen to music on my Tablet PC with all this wait time. I turned around, and wouldn't you know it, in the ground was embedded a two-head outlet with metal covers. It was caked with dirt and dust, and appeared to have been unused for at least a decade. I was not confident it would supply any power, but I plugged in and my Tablet PC roared back to life.
I never have enough time to sit down and really goof off on the computer. Now was my time to do it. I had 6.5 hours to kill and I decided I wouldn't try to sleep at all, saving my zzzzzs for the flights. So, I transferred all 148 pictures I took over the weekend onto my computer and went about weeding out the best 30 or so to post on my site. That, while listening to my MusicMatch Jukebox that I had loaded with 100+ of my favorite songs, ranging from G Love & Special Sauce, to Wilco, to Squeeze, to Bruce Springsteen, to Dixie Chicks to Everclear and on & on.
Before I knew it, it was 3:30 a.m. and my Jalbum-created photo page was done, and in an hour, the Northwest ticketing terminal would open. I wanted to get there first so I could upgrade to first class all the way home. Part of me debated if I should use those precious upgrade coupons, because I knew I'd be sleeping the whole way, but I decided I'd rather sleep in a big, quiet seat than risk having some noisy neighbor or big person invading my space.
For the next hour I stretched, walked around and talked to the janitor who had admired my computer on one of his sweeping/mopping passes and asked some questions about the Tablet PC and how I was creating the web site. We, literally, were the only awake people in this sea of 100+ weary travelers draped across chairs and couches.
I made my way to the ticketing terminal to find three people in front of me, and a board saying the open hours were 4:42 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. 4:42? C'mon. At 4:40, there was there was still no sign of life, but as God as my witness, at exactly 4:42, two agents burst through the back room and began their day. The man in front of me was of Eastern European descent and got really fed up with the agent for not being able to find his reservation and telling him he'd have to buy the ticket for $994. He stormed off and I heard the agents berating & laughing at him because he had been so angry he didn't hear the agent tell him they had finally found his reservation. More than likely, he didn't understand them. Unlike that poor soul, I had no trouble, and, in fact, was upgraded to first class the whole way through Portland.
As I made my way to the gate, I saw the Eastern European man in the adjacent hallway crouching on the floor with his laptop, evidently trying to find his reservation saved on his computer. He looked frantic and distraught. I tapped him on the shoulder, and told him the agents had found his reservation. His face relaxed and his shoulders drooped as he exhaled. With a very heavy accent he thanked me and then he thanked me again. I smiled and told it was my pleasure.
I felt good that I helped this guy, and I hope if Colleen and I encounter anything like that when we're in Europe this summer, someone looks out for us too.
The flight was on time, and I was in seat 1-A. I gulped down some OJ and water before we took off. Except for the lead flight attendant coughing up a lung in the galley every time she got out of sight, it was a pleasant flight 2 hour and 20 minute flight. I slept for about 1.5 hours. The connection in Minneapolis was on time and, I slept in seat 3-A for 3 hours of the 3 hour and 55 minute flight.
I landed in Portland at 11:00 a.m. and was home at noon. I shouted "Hello!" when I got in the door, and I heard Grady gasp and scream with joy. But, it wasn't "Dad!" he was screaming, it was "Present! My present!" He ran right past me to my suitcase. Oh well. He loved the Wendy (from Bob the Builder) Pez dispenser, and the kiwi Christmas ornaments Grandma and Grandpa brought back from New Zealand.
Liam was down for a nap, after having thrown up a couple of hours before, and Grady went down for his nap after the initial excitement of me coming home, er, getting his presents. :) Colleen went down for a nap too, so I once again found myself alone. I retrieved 3 days worth of mail stuffed into our tiny mailbox, sorted through that, checked news on MSNBC.com and finally couldn't stay up any longer and crashed on the leather coach for an hour. Coltrane enjoyed cuddling with me during the nap.
Coltrane had been in the dog house all day long for having bared his teeth to Colleen when she disciplined him earlier for stealing a baked potato off the counter. He's getting bad at accepting punishment. Colleen is worried we'll need to give him away. So, with that on my mind, I gave him some extra love and he enjoyed it immensely.
One of two things needs to happen to curb that snarling behavior of Coltrane. Either he needs to stop doing bad things (not likely to happen) or we need to change our way of discipling him. We can't do it in scary physical ways, because he just doesn't react well to that. He's a very sensitive soul, so I think strong voices should be the way. The problem with that is we try to banish him to his crate after he's done something like that, but he corners himself in the laundry room or pantry, and when you reach for him, he bares his teeth. I've tested him while he's baring his teeth by smacking his face and keeping my hand right there to bite on and he does take a hold of it, but doesn't bite down. In fact, after realizing what he's almost just done makes him VERY nervous and I think is punishment enough. Anyway, it worries Colleen more than me, and I hope there's no ultimatum handed down to get rid of Coltrane, because I don't think it's necessary.
18 hours after the Wendys chicken strip meal during my ride from Athens to Atlanta, we sat down and had a roasted chicken, stuffing and French bread meal. It was delicious. I topped that off with chocolate chip ice-cream later in the night, while watching Alias and The Practice, our two favorite shows. I didn't fall asleep until midnight, and am feeling really fatigued today (Monday, April 19).
Thanks for reading this far.