Nov 30, 2010

heard in connecticut

Posted by Mary |

It's really shanty Irish to talk on the toilet.
--Dad, to my sister
who was trying to
stay in the conversation

Why must my father leave for work so early in the morning? It means I have to wake up even earlier to say goodbye to him. When you're trying to readjust your clock to Alaska time, it means technically waking up at 3 a.m.

My big trip to America is over. I am heading to the airport soon and going home. I love my family and will miss them, but I miss my house and my bed and my cat. Oh yeah, and I miss MNB too.

My long day of flying will be broken up with long layovers in airports. I will use my time at O'Hare to suss it out. MNB and I will have about a 4 hour layover there in January. I've sweet-talked a friend into meeting me at SeaTac for dinner. Maybe I'll walk to meet her. Maybe she'll bring pizza to me at the terminal.

Nov 29, 2010

reunion time

Posted by Mary |

Part of the fun of visiting the East Coast is getting to see old friends. On Saturday afternoon, I headed down to my friend Cara's house, where we had arranged a small reunion.

Floyd, on the left, showed up at the Pearl Street apartment in Mystic one day when Jenni and Cara were living there. Since every group of friends needs someone with a crazy Scottish accent, we kept him. On the right is his wife, Dawn, who we had known for many years before that.

We also had a small high school reunion. From left, I represent the class of 1994, while Dee was 1995. Cara and Kristen were both class of 1993. Three out of the four of us were troublemakers. I maintain that I was the good kid.

Even though our high school was in the northern part of the state, there was some crossover into the southern part of the state, as many high school friends were also Mystic friends. I lived in between the two and had grown up in Groton. Cara's family had a beach house in the area. Dee lived in California when he first started at Pomfret, but his mother moved down to the Mystic area.

Joining our Mystic reunion was Becca, who I went to school with in the sixth and seventh grade. She lived in Mystic and was involved in many of our hijinks.

Posed pictures can't begin to tell the story of sitting around the dining room table, drinking copious amounts of red wine, and reminiscing about our youth. We all took turns forgetting who was involved in which incident. I think that I need to demand a reunion every time I visit Connecticut. Thanks for the fun times (past and present)!

Nov 26, 2010

that holiday feeling

Posted by Mary |

The cool kids hang out on the front porch at night, drinking wine.
And by cool kids, I mean my Aunt Mary and cousin Jess.
MySpace-style portrait art will never die!

After the supercomputing conference ended, I bid adieu to New Orleans and flew to Connecticut to visit with family for a bit. As my sister had given birth in April, I risked incurring great Catholic guilt trips if I didn't make it out to meet her daughter soon.

I am once again struck by how big and how identical everything is here in the Lower 48. It's become a world of chain restaurants and box stores. Moreover, a popular timepass seems to be making a day of shopping. I guess I'm spoiled in Fairbanks - we have barely any places to shop, making that errand more utilitarian. At the same time, I do have the ability to buy nearly anything my heart desires, thanks to the Internet. Thus, my shopping list for this trip has been quite brief: a new sweater, a piece of luggage for my roommate, a box of Devil Dogs. I impulse-purchased a new purse, reminding myself of how easy it can be to get distracted by the quantity of goods available.

The rumors of my niece being a quiet and perfect baby have been greatly exaggerated. Ashley goes to grandma daycare, so I've been spending most days with her. And don't get me wrong - she's cute! She mostly stuffs her two middle fingers in her mouth and stares at you. She may be plotting my death to increase her inheritance. It's hard to tell. Mostly she just stares. But when she gets fussy, she is not afraid to cry long and loud to share her dismay.

My friend Meg also has a new baby. She adopted last year, so I had met Leah once before. But now the kid is walking and is a bit of a handful. She is built like a tank and seems to be bulletproof, thus earning herself the nickname Bam-Bam. Mean nicknames aren't just for the dance troupe!

Yesterday was, of course, the big event, with my Manhattan relatives trekking inland to eat turkey and ply me with questions about Alaska politics. The Massachusetts relatives had arrived the night before, possibly to suss out the liquor situation. There's always enough wine around when I am here, but otherwise it's usually pretty dry, belying our WASP-y roots.

If yesterday was Thanksgiving, that means today is the day after Thanksgiving. And instead of waking up early for Black Friday shopping, we are following a different family tradition - staying out of my mother's way as she becomes a whirling Tasmanian devil of Christmas decorations. I could try to explain just how much she decorates, but not even pictures would do it justice. Let's just say that there are normally three fully decorated Christmas trees. And the bathroom goes beyond theme towels to theme shower curtains. People wonder why I don't celebrate the holidays, but it's clearly just a natural rebellion against the environment in which I was raised. Like a holiday Rumspringa.

I have a few days left to try to fit in all the visits with old friends and relatives, not to mention spending quality time with my actual nuclear family. There's been a subtle shift in language. People keep asking me how much longer I'm home, but I speak of how much longer I'll be visiting before I go home. I miss my house and my cat and MNB. I'm glad I skipped the Icepocalypse of 2010 in Fairbanks, but I need to go home. And then turn right around and go on vacation with MNB.

Crap. I've only got a week left until I have to go to the Supercomputing Conference. Suddenly my To-Do List is looming in front of me.

Of course, the conference itself wouldn't be so bad, except for the trip to visit my family afterward. That means extra packing and extra luggage. Not to mention the extra nights until I'm back in my own home and sleeping in my own bed.

In an ideal world, I'd be able to bring MNB along with me. He'd get all nerdy at the conference, then be forced to meet the family. However, in the real world, there is really only one airline that flies out of Fairbanks. And since it doesn't fly to New Orleans, I can't use my companion fare for him. He'll just have to keep the home fires burning. (Hopefully not literally, as I don't actually have a woodstove.)

With the conference nigh, the crazy preparations at work are almost done. This means I can settle into the next big task: Hosting an international conference in 2011. Lots of work to be done, including some of my favorite things - designing publications. I've already knocked out two of the three reminder postcards and sent them off for printing and mailing. There will also be a mailed brochure and a rather hefty conference program. I'm getting giddy just thinking about heavy weight paper and aqueous coating.