Great Trip, Ignoring the Bread on this Sandwich

Recently, i realized that a ten-day vacation (is it really a vacation when you are retired?) is really not ten days.

In fact, Monday morning was the “recently.” Our ten-day vacation, trip for retirees, took two weeks. It took two days to get ready, and if i get everything done, it will have taken two days to get back in sync.

We have turned the water on — this is not usually required, but our cat, Bruce Willis, has taken to playing with the kitchen faucet, turning it on when no one is looking. Now, Maureen and i are both cautious. So, we checked with each other to be sure the kitchen sink water was off when we left. As i was offloading our suitcases, Maureen turned it back on at midnight. About one o’clock (what an antiquated term), with only an hour of trip recovery organization remaining, i kneeled under the sink and turned the valve. The next morning, Maureen couldn’t get water out of that faucet and thought we had a major problem before realizing i had also turned the valve, which, of course, turned it off again.

This is becoming more common.

So, we leave on June first. Of course, we had to get all organized two days before — not really, but i am anal about being organized for a trip only to forget something — then we pack on the day before. We get up around 4:00 a.m. Why? Because i’m, as aforementioned, anal, and women in general and Maureen in particular takes a…er, ahem, a little longer to get ready than i do. Dear Karin Fink, takes us to the airport.

Flight’s on time. Good. The plane warms up. It continues to warm up and warm up. The pilot comes on the intercom. “We have a mechanical problem and working on it,” he says. Fifteen or so minutes pass. The pilot again, “We (who is this “we” bunch?) need to replace a part. We are looking for it.” About twenty minutes pass. The pilot: “We can’t find the part. We are going to have to deplane (what a unpleasant term: it sounds like some body part is going to be replaced). We will find a replacement aircraft.”

i’m thinking, “Do replacement aircraft just happen to be lying around somewhere?” The answer is no, but somehow Alaska Airlines knows a thing or two. When we — not the Alaska inclusive “we,” mind you, but the passengers only — return to the terminal and wait anxiously for some news. Maureen and i discuss the options. Canceling our trip seems like a choice if we don’t get to leave before the next day. Fun wait.

Then, they say, “We have found another aircraft. Flight 930 to Boston will depart from Gate 30 at …noon, or something near: my eyes were glazed over by then and i do not remember except i calculated time factors and realized we would get to our nephew’s Watertown, Mass. apartment ’round midnight and that ain’t a jazz tune.

So we made it. Might i say we were a bit tired.

* * *

The other end of this sandwich was the trip home. It went off as expected, but it was the only non-stop flight between Boston and San Diego. So yep, we get home at midnight. i unpack and go through the mail. Maureen collapsed on the bed about twenty minutes after we arrive. Me? Two in the morning.

Unpacking, getting the house in order, storing stuff, dealing with the three-hour time change took a while, like two days.

So, our trip was 14 days, not the advertised 10. Is that because i’m old.

Regardless, air travel isn’t what it used to be. i used to look forward to flying. Now i dread it.

And that was the old bread slices for our sandwich.

* * *

The filling of the sandwich was glorious.

We stayed at our nephew’s apartment. Zach Jewell has a great place in Watertown, Massachusetts. Even better, my brother was there. Good way to start.

Then on to Newport, retracing my steps in November, but this time with Maureen. Noreen Leahy and Emily Black enjoy Maureen’s company. Jim Leahy –he and Noreen put us up at their wonderful home on Tuckerman Avenue — was just the best host possible and he even laughed at my sea stories. My first apartment is about three lots away. Their home looks south onto the Atlantic.

Of course, nostalgia was coursing through my veins. Newport is one of the few places i would consider as home if we didn’t live in the Southwest corner. And we hit spots that were my stomping grounds: Fort Adams boasts a park where my Navy housing was in 1972. The house with my apartment in 1983 hasn’t changed. It is located at the beginning of Ocean Drive. Castle Hill Inn, where Noreen, Maureen, and met Emily and sat in lawn chairs looking out on the Narragansett Bay channel, which i traversed on the USS Waldron (DD 764), USS Hawkins (DD 873), and USS Luce (DLG 7) enough to have lost count.

A new place, which was wonderful, was a sunset of Hors d’oeuvres with wine. Perfect. We were joined by Diego, a Naval War College Student from Panama sponsored by Jim and Noreen, and their son Joe, who is attending the Prospective Executive Officer course en route to a ship. Of course, Joe had to endure words of wisdom from an old XO.

Then, there was the Black Pearl. i have somewhere near 250 tales about the Black Pearl. It was literally a shack on a pier in my day, established by the owner of the three-masted schooner with the same name so he had a place for a drink and sandwich after a sail. Today, it has expanded (so has the pier) with outdoor dining and a fine dining extension off of the original shack. But back then, i dated a waitress who was attending Salve Regina College. She remains a close friend.

Ahh, memories.

We toured the Tennis Hall of Fame where in 1973, Blythe’s mother and i watch Billie Jean King, Margaret Court, Rosie Casals, and Evonne Goolagong in a tournament. We sat at center court and our necks hurt for a week from turning our heads to catch the action.

i even spotted Hurley’s building. Hurley’s was my spot for jazz and what was called Rhythm and Blues back then but bears little resemblance to that genre today. On Sundays afternoons in the late 60’s, Hurley’s held a jam session, and every Sunday, they played and sang, “My Satin Doll.” Nailed it. The lady that sang was in her happy zone. So was i.

And Saturday evening, Jim and Noreen took us to the White Horse Tavern. Legend has it that it originally was a pirate’s home. It became a restaurant in 1673, the oldest operating restaurant in the country today.

i went with Blythe’s mom in 1973 for our second anniversary. i ordered the seafood combo. They brought out a vat about 18 inches high with a diameter of about a foot. They dipped some tongs in and brought out a whole lobster, then shrimp, then mussels, then clams, then potatoes, corn, carrots, and lord knows what else. i don’t recall what Kathie had, and i sure as heck couldn’t see it. We got home in time to see the Knicks beat the Lakers in the NBA championship game.

Then in 1983, ten years later, i took Maureen there with the intention to share the seafood combo. But it was upscale change. We had a wonderful gourmet dinner by candlelight and closed the place up with a long conversation with the bartender while sipping armagnac. Perfect.

Ahh, memories.

Sunday, with the Leahy’s headed back to NYC, Emily took us to something new. We blew glass Christmas ornaments. Now that’s unique.

Then, we drove to Joe and Carla’s home in Quechee, Vermont. It is in the woods. Of course, Vermont is in the woods. It rained on us pretty much the whole drive. It was rainy and chilly (for us, not Vermonters. Except for our day in Hanover, New Hampshire with Joe (think Dartmouth) and an incredible afternoon at Castle Hill Inn in Newport, it was rainy and chilly. The Canadian wildfires turned the sun blood red one day and we could feel and smell smoke for several days (nothing like New York City). But our entire time in New England, it evoked New England, sea coast (even though Vermont is not clo se to the Atlantic).

Maureen spent a couple of days with her high school buddy, Chris Davis, in Essex Junction outside of Burlington and toured a bit of Canada. This was good for her.

While she was up north, i visited my shipmate. Andrew Nemethy. Andrew’s history is rather incredible, but i will save that for later. He now lives out in the woods, which is out in the woods even for Vermont. History is breathed into my lungs. Andrew’s home on a farm where he snow shoes through the woods with his dog, Django. was built in 1730. The exposed beams are held together with wooden pegs, not nails. You see, nails weren’t available at Home Depot back then. Neither was Home Depot. Andrew’s home is what i often dream of as an escape from the world. Ethan Allen and his “Green Mountain Boys” frustrated the Redcoats here. Andrew is erudite, a talented pianist and guitar player, and his own man. Now that, my friends, is someone to visit. Oh, by the way, mobile phone coverage disappears about two miles from his home.

We found our way back to Boston in the rain naturally, and spent Sunday morning with Joe’s daughter, Professor Kate Jewell, her husband, Conor Hansen, and their three children. Joe and i put together a cabinet for Kate. It was an event in the dining room and working with Joe evinced the two of us working on projects with our father back home. It was one of the strongest emotions i had through the trip.

And so it is over. We are back in the Southwest corner. Sun actually broke out today. Summer is here. Weather guessers and local news talking heads are talking about the increased dangers of wildfires here for the summer and autumn, a familiar refrain: the rain has increased the amount of vegetation, which will dry out and exacerbate any fires. Heard it before.

i wrote this to record our journey for Maureen and me. i hope there is interest of others, not a boring travelogue. The meat and fixin’s between the bread slices was good, damn good.

Now, it is time for sea stories. i love sea stories.

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