The A-Hole Car

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‘Dealing with a gang of turkeys on Amtrak’

Actually, I wasn’t sure what to call that bunch of turkeys. Except not to call them for dinner (ba-da-bum). So I checked good ole Google. Turns out there are a variety of terms: ‘muster’, ‘posse’, ‘rafter’ being among them. The only one I decided against was ‘school’, since the ‘gang’ I’m going to describe seemed decidedly uneducated. At least in the mores and folkways of polite train-riding.

The story I’m going to tell happened when Dude and I were Amtraking our way home after spending a most delightful day and a half with The Child up in the Boston/Cambridge area where she lives and works.

You’ve probably heard enough already about The Child and her cool job at the amazing-and-recently-bought-by-Standard-and-Poor Kensho. Suffice it to say that The Dude and I are not only proud as punch but relieved that she won’t be couch-surfing at our place any time soon.

The Child showing us around Kensho’s new C’bridge digs. If you look closely you can see that her door has ‘Troll’ written on it (not by us)

Kensho’s new spread is one of those designed-so-the-workforce-never-wants-to-leave sorts of places. With not only two kitchens stocked with every kind of snack imaginable (even Goldfish, The Child’s personal catnip), but also a gym and a game room and (I am not making this up) a meditation room. The Child and The Dude worked up a bit of a healthy sweat at the ping-pong table, though, sadly, this went undocumented.

The Dude test-swings one of Kensho’s more, um, interesting new ‘office chairs’. (Yeah, I stole this shot from The Child’s Instagram feed; could have cropped the bottom, but wanted to keep those Dude Feet)

Anyway, we had a very pleasant time even not at the fantastic new office — an afternoon walking around Cambridge with Child and BF, capped with a nice dinner in a Millennial-friendly Williamsburg-hipster-esque spot near Inman Square.

Bumping into a few turkeys on a walk around Cambridge. Much better behaved than the turkeys we encountered on our train

Next day, for a change of pace, we went to the Isabella Gardner Museum, which is like one of my favorite haunts in New York, the Frick, in that it is a big beautiful house filled with the art and objects that the big beautiful benefactor left in it. It is my dream that, one day, The Child will be so successful that she can buy me one of these houses. Either one will be fine.

Meeting the benefactrice. Incidentally, if your name is ‘Isabella’, you get in free. We had to pay

Yes, we were allowed to take pictures inside the Gardner House. (I asked a guard, just to make sure.) Here are a few more to enjoy before I get back to the incident-on-the-train part.

This house has, among zillions of other attractions, a four-story courtyard. Sigh

Dude and Child taking in the courtyard while I measure the rooms for the movers

The Child, making like a Sargent

All right, enough with the art and the day-dreaming. Sooner than you can say “Gosh, that visit went fast!”, The Child had ushered us into an Uber, and off we went to the station, where The Dude enjoyed a fortifying Carvel cone before boarding our train back to New York.

We had suffered through a bit of a misadventure on our way up to Boston the day before. See, I can’t sit backwards without getting carsick, so we had dragged our bags through car after car of ‘backward-facing seats’ only to discover when the train started moving that the two ‘front-facing’ ones we finally found (next to the bathroom, ick) were actually backwards. We, duh, thought the train was pointed the other way.

But that was bliss compared to our ride home. Turns out a big snowstorm was predicted for Boston, so our train was crammed with not only experienced, polite train-riders, but a rather unruly mob of, I’m guessing from their (loud) cellphone conversations, o-no-our-flight-was-cancelled airplane-flyers.

You know how on the train they have this thing called the Quiet Car? We didn’t sit there, since we knew we might want to, you know, kvell a bit with each other over The Child. (Besides, the Quiet Car was, no doubt, full already with nice, quiet, and super-smart-for-choosing-it Quiet-Car-riders.)

The Dude, sitting quietly (even tho not in the Quiet Car), reading his Jack Reacher book on his phone instead of talking on it

So we sat in a ‘normal’ car. Which we quickly dubbed the A-Hole Car. (Only we didn’t call it ‘A-Hole’) This car was populated with peeps who coughed a lot, marched up and down the aisle bonking you on the head with bags and briefcases, ate smelly food, were accompanied by loud screaming children, dropped their tray tables so they made resounding bangs, slept with their feet on the adjoining seat, and watched movies without headphones.

Yup. It was just like being on a plane! But worse, since (at least for now, thank the Transportation Gods) you can’t talk on the phone on a plane. And this bunch of turkeys were indeed gabbling on the phone. Loudly, and a lot. One guy a couple of seats up, over the course of several calls, told us in booming detail all about the deal he was closing. He referred, several times, to his clients as “all pre-sliced, like bread in buns.” Once he even said he was “shaving down the buns”. I’m not sure what all that means, biz-wise, but I sure hope his deal wasn’t a secret one, because everybody in that car knew all about it by the time we pulled into Penn Station.

Oh, speaking of marching up and down the aisle, there was a woman who paused mid-march to ask what I was doing. (I was knitting some mittens.) She admired my handiwork, which was nice, but then she picked up my finished mitten and without as much as a by-your-leave or a how-de-do, she tried it on.

My mittens-in-the-making, pre-disturbance

Well. We made it home, sanity — and mittens — intact. And before the storm hit too. Thanks again, dear Child, for a wonderful visit. We hope to be back again soon. But next time we might drive.

New York City. March 2018

 

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered by The Brits

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‘Cambridge gives The Child the Evil Eye’

Back in the Dark Ages BB* I used to make movies. I filmed anything—and everything—my family did. Then I edited the footage, set it to music and churned out dozens of DVDs that I foisted on one and all. It got so that the mere sight of my cute little Flip video camera drove them into hiding. “Mo-om! Stop flipping us!’  Hah. They didn’t realize how good they had it.

*BB: ‘Before Blog’. A more innocent time, filled with pestering people with filming, then pestering people to watch said films

Well now I don’t need no stinkin’ camera. Because now everything is fodder for The Blog. Including the fact that The Child just might be a witch.

OK. So these two Samanthas don’t look all that much alike. (For those of you who don’t already know, yes, that is The Child’s real, actual name, which I wouldn’t normally reveal, but there you go.) And for those of you who don’t get the ‘Samantha’ reference, here’s some info.

Basically, the black-and-white Samantha pictured above was the main character in a 60’s TV show called ‘Bewitched’. She was a witch married to a ‘normal guy’ who forbade her, for some inexplicable reason, to use her powers. Personally, I’d be all ‘Honey, could you turn my fat ugly boss into the toad he actually is?’ But that’s just me.

Samantha the TV Witch uses her powers to do laundry instead of winning the lottery

Samantha the TV Witch uses her powers to do laundry instead of to win the lottery

But back to what happened in Cambridge. This Witch Story occurred to me because a year has gone by since The Dude and I made our trip to visit The Child while she was studying at Cambridge. A whole year! And there’s still a big ole file of yet-to-be-movified footage staring me accusingly in the face every time I open my computer. Oh well. One of these days. Right now I’d rather tell you about The Witch Thing.

We were winding down after a full day of touring Cambridge—the Botanical Garden, the Scott Polar Institute, college after stately college—and enjoying a nice meal at a restaurant called St. John’s Chophouse. The Child had picked it because it featured Huge Cuts of Meat, which is something students, even students not at Cambridge, can’t afford. (Sushi; same deal. Flesh, raw or cooked, swimming or hoofed, is what Students want to eat when Parents are paying. No ‘Oh, Mom and Dad, can you please please take us to the vegan place?!’  Uh-uh. It’s pricey protein every time.)

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The (South) Polar Express

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‘Discovering the Pole, without the Polarfleece’

Well, Snowmageddon was kind of a bust, at least here in New York City. But the wannabe-blizzard yesterday, during which I toasted my toes by the fire while reading Hilary Mantel (er, did loads of housework), did remind me that I promised to write about the South Pole. (See ‘Who is Lutheranliar?’)

See, I’m fascinated by the South Pole. I just love to read about those wacky Englishmen and Norwegians who duked it out trying to be The First to the Pole, oh about a hundred years ago. And I actually got to visit the Scott Polar Institute on the Dude’s and my trip to check on (er, visit) the Child in Cambridge last year:

It’s funny, though. When I tell people about my fascination, they invariably ask me if I want to go to the South Pole. No way! It’s really cold in Antarctica, and pitch-dark most of the time. And getting there involves being on a ship. Which of course would be on the ocean. Where scary creatures swim and rogue waves roam. Deal-breaker. Continue reading