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A birthday week to remember

Posted in Crazy Wisdom on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm by flerly.

I wanted to sit down and capture the whole week, but as I review things in my mind, the end just seems to outweigh the beginning so much, that saving it for last seems difficult. It really was a roller-coaster, emotional week. Life in general is difficult these days, but the trick is to find the space for joy and love amidst it — “Happiness Project” on a budget, I guess. Years ago I decided the best way to find happiness, around my birthday especially, was to make my own plans — not that you can’t count on other people, but realizing that people aren’t mind readers. Why not plan something to make you happy on your day, then just allow those you love to share it with you?

That being said, the big plans this year were two-fold. The first, a quiet dinner someplace new with JamesT, and a crazy long weekend trip to Washington DC for Jon’s rally. What I ended up with was bonus — a weekend in Alabama with family, delicious cupcakes, some girly shopping time with sis, a great fireworks show with paper lanterns, and then a bonus pumpkin carving night and dinner hosted by a dear friend who tends to go above and beyond as if it’s the norm, for which I can’t thank her enough.

This entry was delayed right here because I got sick after this birthday week, and was really down for the count — and the work backlog had to come before the pleasure journaling. Resume entry after 8 days…

This was our second year of shooting fall festival fireworks in Alabama, and we certainly had some new toys to show off for them this year. Pete choreographed the show to music, which everyone but Pete thinks came out wonderfully, and we started the show with the automatic lighting of a dozen colorful paper lanterns right at sunset, which was just beautiful. I truly love those, and look forward to more up-close audience opportunities to include them in our shows. James’ mom and step-dad came down for the show, which I think may have been more intimate knowledge of a job than they wanted. Usually when we invite guests, there is a lot going on to distract from the small group setting up fireworks. This time, they were right there in the midst the entire time, including the spontaneous launching afterwards during cleanup of shells that didn’t go during the shoot. Yes, we plied them with liquor after. Margaritas are calming.

Sis and I tried a little girly day out for shopping, food and getting nails done, but we only ventured as far as Jasper. I did end up with great Halloween decorated toes, though. Nothing too adventurous in Jasper, and we both had a lot more planned for the week, so I think we consciously kept it reined in.

Tuesday night, James and I had reservations at Park Tavern — a location I’ve just always wanted to go for dinner, because it’s by the park downtown, and bonus my having a certificate for $25 off on a weeknight meal. What we ended up with was a surprise, as we decided on the “Salt Block Experience” — which the manager later came over to tell us all about. They’re apparently the only location outside of Vegas doing it, yet.  They start you with edamame and a mixed green ginger salad, which was dynamite, then bring the super-heated salt block to your table — carefully — along with 3 types of sushi grade meats, seaweed wraps, sushi rice, sauces, add-ins, all the goodies, and you make your own hand-rolled sushi at the table. The salt block is hot enough to sear meat for 45 minutes, and it seasons and locks in such flavor, it was amazing. The sound and the smell kept drawing passers-by to our table. It was so fun and delicious!

Wednesday night, an amazing little group of friends gathered in Dunwoody to carve pumpkins and give me birthday well wishes. I felt so loved. James and I carved our ridiculous rally poster pumpkins of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Kit stuffed us with lasagna, garlic bread and salad. Laura brought chili and green bean casserole, and I was plied with delicious bottled cider, until I had to switch to a white russian — because “milk” was required with my cake. The cake, a homemade carrot cake brought by Josh and Amy, which was just to die for.

Thursday night, Kit drops us off at Amtrak in Atlanta for our little Washington DC adventure. As it turned out, however, the train was almost 2 hours delayed to the station, which we should have known would mean doom for the rest of the ride. The Amtrak experience in itself we enjoyed — the seats, the service, the ease of boarding, the ability to move about the train, the scenery, the available power outlets for our gadgets, the cafe car, the restaurant car, and especially ending up conveniently at Union Station. The ride up in particular, however, was the trip from hell.

You see, after already being 2 hours delayed to leave, we managed to hit a car which had been abandoned on the train tracks near Charlotte, and later were at the mercy of a signal outage on a huge section of Norfolk Southern track, and then delayed further as we had to wait for also delayed oncoming traffic to pass through the single track area so they could pass us. All in all, we arrived in Washington DC about 7 hours delayed — meaning that instead of wondering what to do with our backpacks all day since we couldn’t check into the hotel until later, we walked right to our hotel to check in. If you have the right attitude, and your trip isn’t particularly time sensitive, then Amtrak is a nice way to travel. Did I mention how nice the staff was, too?

Washington DC was… well… cold. And breezy. And we were on foot. And mostly exhausted from the lengthy trip up. We managed to wander a bit and explore, find some food, pick up some in-room snacks, then went back to the hotel to rest up for Saturday. When we woke up Saturday, we flipped on the TV and noticed that the area for the rally, which wasn’t supposed to start until noon, was already packed with people. We packed up, stopped by the Subway across the street to grab some lunch for later, then quickly fell in with the just masses of people walking through the city toward the rally. It was almost surreal how the crowd just moved together, growing larger and larger, and blocks before we hit the mall, it was obvious that something amazing was going on.

We headed for the center of the mall area at one of the cross streets, and ended up in a mass of people, news vans, and vendor tents, not really able to see the stage or TV screens. The area between us and the stage was already packed, and behind us toward the Washington monument was another sea of people. We decided to move to one side, and ended up in the raised lawn by the steps of the National Art Museum, where we could see across the port-o-potties to one of the screens and hear when the crowd wasn’t too loud. Later, when people climbed on the port-o-potties to sit, we lost view of that screen, and resolved ourselves to just enjoy the crowd, the moment, the signs, and what we could hear. We were already recording the whole thing on TV at home, but little did we know that what we were seeing wouldn’t even be captured by the TV broadcast. I can’t say enough what an amazing gathering it was.

At about a half-hour before it was set to be over, we started walking again, down the side toward the stage end, and ended up behind the stage area, by the reflecting pool at the capital. That walk got us glimpses of many things we’d see more of in the tv broadcast, and it was peaceful to break out of the crowd and sit behind the stage a little while until it was over. Then we made our way back to Union Station to find food and wait for our ride home, thankfully ahead of most of the rest of the crowd. Twice before I’d been to Washington DC, but never before to Union Station, so it was fun to eat dinner there, then browse the shops. I got Christmas ornaments, a bear, and of course they made that Swatch store in DC real hard to find by putting it right at Union Station — so we both got new Swatches.

The ride home went as advertised and on schedule, with a pretty full train until we got out of the general Arlington/upper Virginia area, then we could take up two seats and stretch out to sleep. Kit picked us up on Halloween morning, and we came home to crash for a nap, then watch the recorded rally. Though it was nice to finally see and make sense of what we’d heard going on, it was just amazing how they really only showed the crowd within the fenced mall area — the original planned space of the rally, and maybe an occasional shot of how far along the mall toward the Washington Monument the crowd stretched, but you had no sense at all of how wide the crowd was — cover not just the width of the mall that you could see, but also the entire street on each side and up the lawn and steps of the museums on the other sides of the street. We had joked that the “Rally for Sanity” were the people inside the barrier that could see the stage, while the continuous group of people walking the streets beside the mall were the “March to Keep Fear Alive” people. If that were the case, the March was way bigger, and you didn’t see those people on TV.

I don’t know what this rally accomplished politicalwise if anything, and that’s not my subject matter anyway. It was entertaining. It was memorable. The whole trip made us both want to revisit Washington DC soon and actually sight-see, and believe it or not, to take Amtrak again. It was a long, full week of friends, family, 250 thousand strangers, and us on foot carrying our belonging in a strange city for the hell of it. I’d love to do it all again.

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