As much as I'd love to inundate you with a detailed retelling of the full eight days, I am going to break it up into manageable chunks, because too much of a good thing quickly becomes "TL;DR" instead.
We will start with...
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
While some of this may be suspect due to the passage of time and lack of sleep, I am going to hold that this is the truth.. "from a certain point of view," at any rate.
I slept maybe a couple of hours that night, and woke at 3am instead of the much more reasonable 330am I had intended to use for my alarm. Oddly, from showering to dressing to finalizing packing to breakfast, I was pretty much perfectly on time. This meant, of course, that I'd originally subconsciously intended to rush and hurry to get to the airport. Thank the heavens I didn't give into that temptation.
I arrived, printed my boarding passes, and checked my luggage. Turning toward the TSA security checkpoint, I saw why my tickets said to arrive two hours early: the line to get through security was easily 40 feet long. To their credit, it moved pretty steadily, and soon I was headed toward my departure gate. (NOTE TO SELF FOR FUTURE REFERENCE: Your backpack has two straps, and you are carrying more than a pair of schoolbooks. Put that shit on your back, dork!) I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do at that point, because I was probably at least 30 minutes early for boarding, and I hadn't paid enough for my ticket to qualify for boarding as soon as they announce it.
Fidgeting, I watched the sun rise out of the window by the gate, and even thought to take a picture (which became the first of over 200). I was a good little Facebooker, and kept up photos of my trip, as well as posting updates throughout the day. The drain on my battery was significant, though.
Soon, I was on the plane, and had the entire row to myself! I learned, though, to my embarrassment, that the seat belt wouldn't buckle with me in it. I kept my calm, and kept trying, but finally settled for tucking the ends under my loose t-shirt and acting nonchalant, all the while praying that the plane didn't go down in a fiery ball of death, because I was totally going to get blown FAR away. I might have gotten up and looked more closely at the belt ends, but I didn't want to call attention to it, and I was deathly afraid that I was going to get thrown off the plane, and not get to New York after all, so I shut up.
I departed my first flight in almost thirteen years when we landed in Detroit, Michigan. For those who have never been to the airport in Detroit, let me say that it is BIG. Thankfully, it all seemed to be in a straight line, with plenty of moving sidewalks to help you get from one end to another. I had to pee something fierce, though, so I opted to go to the restroom before making a mad dash for my gate (I was at A9, and my departure gate was A55).
For the second time that morning, I became horribly embarrassed. I tend to prefer stalls to urinals, because I'm rather shy when other people are around. The only unoccupied stall door, though, wouldn't fucking open. So, with a ton of nerd shit in a bag that kept trying to fall off my shoulder, I sidled up to an empty urinal, feeling horribly self-conscious. While I was peeing, my bag slipped off my shoulder twice. When I finally was done, I realized I'd gotten some urine on my shirt tail. Thankfully, it was a black t-shirt, so it didn't show up terribly obviously, but I was self-conscious until much later.
The second leg of the flight wasn't as bad, even though I had to share my row with someone. Thankfully, it was a thin girl. Also, my seat belt fit just fine, which perplexed me, and left me wondering if I really had grabbed the wrong belts before. They came in handy, because the plane came in so fast at Scranton that I thought the tires were going to explode from either the pressure of landing on them, or the speed at which we were slowing down. He also didn't seem to have lined up his landing, as we went from "in the air" to "on the ground" particularly abruptly.
Going down to baggage claim, I saw Ricky and Brittney out of the corner of my eye, and since they were pretending like they didn't know me, I played the game, and even walked around a post they were circling, so that they couldn't find me.
Eventually, they did, and we hugged as only those who truly have missed each other do. We grabbed my suitcase, and headed for his van. The trip back to Endicott was uneventful, except that I was completely blown away at all of the mountains in the region. (It's easy, at times, to forget that the Appalachian Mountains start up in that area.
We went to the Blue Dolphin, where Brandy was working, and had lunch. I had a burger and fries, which were pretty good. The strangest thing for me was that Ricky warned me off ordering the sweet tea, saying that up north, sweet meant "raspberry-flavored".
The food was pretty good, though, because I must have eaten too fast, for I got a horrible bout of gas. I wound up laying down for about an hour when we got back to Ricky's apartment. When I woke, I felt much better, and began to dig into my suitcase for the things I had brought people (an Iron Man shirt for Dakota, the D&D cartoon series on DVD for everyone, and three bottles of Dale's marinade for Brandy).
At that moment, Dakota came bursting in, thrilled beyond words that "Uncle Anthony" was there. He immediately wanted to show me his "Star Wars" room, since I'd sent so much to him. I was certainly impressed, and pleased that my gifts had such an enthusiastic recipient. Not to be outdone, Brittney pointed out all of the Doctor Who stuff in her room (where I was staying while I was in town -- she preferred to sleep on the loveseat anyway).
(I have to admit, it was a surprisingly good feeling to have someone that happy to see me. As adults, we've grown cynical and mistrustful, and so even the most heartfelt greeting has a hint of that cynicism layered underneath. Put another way, no matter how happy someone seems to be to see us, we automatically assume that they can't possibly be as excited as they are acting. With an 11-year-old, though, that cynicism doesn't have much room, particularly when he cites exactly how long it's been since he last saw you, and later extracts a promise that you not wait that long to see everyone again.)
I was asked not long afterward about playing D&D. Well, folks can't play D&D without dice, and I never had time to pick up any sets*. So, Ricky, Dakota, and I piled into the van to get some dice for the kids. We went to "SoundGoRound" in Vestal (literally the other side of the highway from Endicott). Let me tell you about that place. They sold new and used video games and systems, LPs, cassettes, CDs, comics, geek toys, anime DVDs and Blu-Ray, collectible card games, board games, and RPGs (like D&D). I've never seen a store so certain to get most of my discretionary income in my life.
All that was missing was a bookstore section (and I didn't get to check out the whole thing, so I may have missed something). The clerk who ran the RPG/CCG section had the dice by the Magic cards, and Ricky immediately began to ask about those as well as the dice. Eventually, we both left with a pair of preconstructed decks, and a few packs of the newest expansion. Oh, and we got dice (yes, almost as an afterthought).
We stopped by "Price Choppers" on the way home, and spent a little too long shopping. Part of it was because they didn't have a lot of groceries at home (it was time for them to shop anyway), and part of it was that I was taking pictures of the store, so I had some frame of reference for later, should I decide to put in an application and move up there. Those I told that I was considering this probably figured I was just stressed out, and didn't mean it, but I decided that I could do a lot worse than do some very preliminary legwork about moving.
When we got home, there wasn't enough time to play D&D that night. I explained that we would definitely play on Wednesday, bid good night to the kids, and went to sleep myself. At least, I tried to. Going from a room with a constant fan blowing in cool A/C to one that had neither fan nor a reliable source of A/C was significant. It was cool that night (mid-50s), so I made the most of it. Besides, I had too much to do while there to worry with something like sleep!
P.S.: Oh! I almost forgot. My first new beer in New York was Middle Ages Brewing Company's "Sparrow Wit". Good beer, but I wasn't quite in the mood for a witbier (think Blue Moon or Hoegaarden). Regardless, it was a tasty start to my introduction to all New York alcoholic beverages, as well as a nice nightcap before bed.
* - Sets for them, that is. I have enough dice to fill a large movie theater popcorn bucket. :)