October 09, 2006
I went back to Ohio

Vacation, work, the kids and the various vicissitudes of everyday living have kept me away from the blog for a while, but here I am again. The blogging is likely to be fairly sparse for the next few weeks, since my long-running project in Hannover is going into the end spurt, due to be finished up (at long last) before the end of this year; but I do intend to keep it going, and won't be taking a nine-month break as I did once before.

For now, I have some new pictures of my trip to the US in August, and a few other new items, up on my family and friends site (password required, write me if you need one). It was whirlwind trip, first to New York City for four days, and then back home to Columbus, Ohio for about a week, and a good time was had by all.

Before the trip started I was a bit exhausted and fed up, very ripe for a vacation, behind on my work and feeling guilty that I wasn't keeping up on my obligations to my colleagues on the team in Hannover. I had a lot of things that needed to be finished before I left, implementation specifications and other such exciting items in the workaday life of a software developer, but for a few weeks before vacation I was doing whatever I could to avoid doing what had to be done. Procrastination was life's highest priority. The night before it was time to leave, I still wasn't packed and my work wasn't finished, when my buddy Michael came over. He was quite sympathetic to my predicament and a bit inspired by my situation, still wholly incredible to me, that I would be in Manhattan the next day. So despite everything that needed to be done, we celebrated my last evening in Hamburg and my impending adventure in the Big Apple in fitting fashion. Then he went home and I sat to down to get the work done that I'd been putting off, before it was too late. All night long I was at it, writing up a gripping narrative about workflows and Enterprise Java Beans and web clients and who knows what all. Seven AM rolled around and I sent the stuff off by email, just in time to call the taxi that would take me to the airport, so I slapped together my suitcase in a hurry and ran out when it arrived, unshowered and smelly, wearing the same clothes I'd had on all day and night, just in time to make my flight.

The first leg of my trip was to Warsaw, the first time I'd ever been to Poland (I got my free miles on the Polish national airline), where I was blessedly upgraded to business class, the main advantage being that I got a large seat to sleep in all the way to New York. And then I arrived at JFK, my mind still in a whirl from gallivanting halfway across the world, and stepped out into the 100 heat and the hustle and bustle and cacophony of New York City. I met my Dad and my Evil Stepmother at the Edison Hotel on 46th Street, right around the corner from Times Square, where we had a room on the 16th floor, with the animated signs reflected in the windows of the building across from us. We set right out to take in the city, and I knew right away that it was the perfect place for me to be, dazzled by the bright lights and the noise and the people and the commotion.

My gawd, did we have a good time. We sat outside in the street caf? of a French restaurant taking in good food, drank martinis in bars big and small, fancy and cozy all over town, strolled through Central Park and the Upper West Side, and saw a Frank Sinatra tribute at the Carnegie Club (where they give out their own expensive brand of cigarettes). My Evil Stepmother and I got Qi-Gong massages on 42nd street for a dollar a minute, $20 for twenty minutes of kneading by a little Chinese woman with powerful hands. We went to the site of the World Trade Center, the first time I'd been there since 9/11, something I wanted to see for myself since I knew that I would be writing the tribute to Jeffrey Randall Smith for the 2,996 project. My Uncle Dick, Dad's oldest brother, arrived on the ferry from New Jersey and joined us for a day in lower Manhattan, where we had lunch in Little Italy and took a walk around Chinatown. Uncle Dick is living pretty well -- he has visited the city often for many years, and now, over seventy years old, he spends his days on the naked beaches of the Jersey shore, and practices his hobby of performing in Indian rain dance competitions (he looks a bit like a Native American, even though he grew up as an Irish Catholic in upstate New York like my Dad). And every evening we ended the day in the warm night air out on the hotel balcony, overlooking the city bustling away below us.

After four days and nights of over-the-top excitement in New York, we went on to Columbus where I spent another week slacking off. One of the new discoveries for me on this visit came when I saw my Evil Stepmother at work for the first time. She's a private investigator (swear to God, just like Rockford) with an office at home, and seems to spend most of her days hanging on the cell phone. I only heard one side of the conversations, but I could see all of the full-blown high-fivin' enthusiasm she brings to the job. "HELL yes," she shouted into the phone, with a bit of the twang she learned from living in Texas, "hot DAMN!" She and her colleague Jennifer, a couple of real-life Charlie's Angels, actually far better than any TV show, could keep each other fired up like that all day long, jiving like a couple of badass PI chicks.

While in town I re-visited two of the places that I had been to often while growing up -- the Ohio State Fair and the COSI (the Center of Science and Industry, a science and technology museum in Columbus). Both of them had changed quite a bit since my childhood. My Dad and I went to the fair every year since we moved to Columbus when I was seven years old, but this was my first time back in twenty years. A lot of the same things are still there -- the Skyline ride that we always took at the beginning and the end of the day, the Giant Slide, and some Midway rides that are still there after over thirty years. The fair is a carnival full of thrill rides and junk food, and also a display of everything fascinating and weird from all over the state of Ohio -- all manner of arts & crafts, some of it quite impressive, Ohio politicians in campaign mode, and all manner of livestock and farm exhibits from every corner of the countryside. You can see sheep getting sheared, or admire the prize-winning zucchini from the 4H club of Muskingum county. I remember the fair of my childhood as a bit more squalid than it is now. They used to have freak shows all over the place -- Arachnia the spider-woman, the world's smallest man, the woman with three heads, that kind of thing. There still is some of that, but it was all in just one place now, a bit cleaned up and sanitized for family entertainment. I kind of missed the charming old grunginess that I remember from way back when.

I had a similar feeling about COSI. The museum is now in the building that had been Columbus East High School in my time, and it's certainly very impressive, with some large and rather spectacular exhibits -- I got a lot of photos of the travelling Star Wars show, with original items from the films like the genuine R2D2, Obi-Wan Kenobi's light saber and the model of the Millenium Falcon. But I did get nostalgic for the museum I knew at its former location on Broad Street, a lot less spiffy but in a way more inviting, with its own peculiar character. I had forgotten all about some of the attractions from back then until Jennifer reminded me when she dropped me off -- the Streets of Yesteryear and the old coal mine, make-believe worlds that were decidedly low-budget compared to the current COSI, but no less interesting for a schoolkid.

But that's the way of the world, we all grow and change. It was a wonderful visit, just what I needed, but much too short. It was great to see all of you back home again, can't wait for next time.

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