Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The road to recovery

So the wedding went well, as did our journey of a thousand miles (some of them by storm-tossed sea, even!), although the long weekend began with a three-hour snag trying to cross New York City that we hoped wouldn't prove to be an ill omen for how the rest of the trip would turn out. Note to self: Friday is not a good day to try to cross the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge, even when that Friday happens to be a holiday. After positively sailing down I-95 through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and even Connecticut, we should have known that the gods of traffic karma would find a way to even out the balance; sure enough, no sooner had we crossed the border into New York State that we encountered a sea of brake lights, followed by mile after mile of cars stopping and starting all the way to the outskirts of the city. When the exit for the GW Bridge failed to move forward for minutes at a time, we knew that something was terribly wrong, so we opted at the last minute to skirt Manhattan and head for the Verrazano and Goethals Bridges, via Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. That drive wasn't exactly a picnic either, but at least we were moving, and we got some excellent views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty at night. And how often do you get a chance to cross a bridge named after a Florentine explorer, followed by another commemorating the designer of the Panama Canal?

Seeing my dad is always fun, as he and my daughter have a special relationship. They spent the next morning puttering around his place raking the leaves, feeding the birds, and just generally enjoying each other's company before we piled onto the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and headed for the wedding outside of Baltimore, where everything seemed to go off without a hitch. My cousin was a beautiful bride, it was a beautiful ceremony, and the reception was a classy affair at a nearby manor with a live jazz/swing/funk sextet called The Swingin' Swamis, who were absolutely fantastic (and they have CDs for sale, too!), and first-rate food as well. This being the Chesapeake Bay Region, you can't very well have a meal without somehow incorporating the blue crab, which appeared during the cocktail hour both in the form of crabcakes and a phenomenal crabmeat fondue that everyone but my brother swooned over. It was great to see my side of the family under happy circumstances, and the little ones did their best to make my daughter feel right at home. I even had a surprise reunion with my sixth grade elementary school teacher, whom I forgot was a friend of my aunt and uncle -- how weird it was to introduce my wife and three year old girl to the guy who taught me long division, graded my book reports, and even ran a Dungeons and Dragons game at lunchtime for the young and nerdly (take that, Jack Chick!).

The day after the wedding we braved the torrential rains and explored Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which I hadn't been to in years and which my wife had never visited before. The City of Baltimore started to revitalize this portion of the waterfront in the 1970's, and since then the area has not only prospered but spurred on a wave of development all along the harbor. The National Aquarium in Baltimore, which was one of the key elements in the original revitalization plan for the Inner Harbor, has also recently undergone a multi-million dollar face lift and now sports a dramatic 35-foot artificial waterfall spilling into a trout pond and an entire pavillion dedicated to the flora and fauna of Australia. The new exhibits are designed in the same vein as the New Jersey State Aquarium, with fewer but larger and deeper tanks designed to better simulate not only the habitat of the creatures on display but which more realistically convey that environment to the people on the other side of the glass as well. This being Maryland, our lunch continued to be all about the blue crab, with "Chesapeake-style" lump crabcake sandwiches from the folks at Phillips, a local favorite and worldwide seafood distributor. The lump cakes were delicious, but considerably more expensive than what were described as "Ocean City-style" crabcakes, which none of us had ever heard of before. Is this a legitimate regional variation, or some kind of dig at Ocean City, Maryland? Inquiring minds want to know!

The boat ride back to Jersey was something of an adventure -- first of all, we nearly missed the 5:15 ferry, which would have obligated to us to hang around in the dark and dreary drizzle until the next boat left more than two hours later. But then once we did manage to get our car on the ship just mere seconds before they pulled up the boarding ramp, no sooner did we make it past the breakwater for Lewes Harbor than the ferry began to pitch and roll in the choppy, storm-agitated Delaware Bay. Ugh. Fortunately the boat sports not only a snack bar but a real bar as well, so after a couple of Yuengling Lagers the ocean swells were going down a bit more smoothly (my daughter got a huge kick out of the rocking of the boat... for about five minutes, although she did find it entertaining to try and walk around without knocking her head into walls, corners, or other similar hazards to those of us who don't have our sea legs).

Then we were obliged to make the inevitable interminable drive back to Gloucester, which all things considered went a lot better than the trip down. Nevertheless a seven-hour drive is a seven-hour drive, and even though we got home reasonably early in the evening on Monday and it's now Wednesday all I want to do right now is crawl underneath my desk and sleep. Of course I may not have helped things all that much by staying up until 3 in the morning Monday night in order to try and play catch-up with my NaNoWriMo writing, but I'll still choose to blame all of those highway miles, thank you very much!

No comments: