Airplane switch at DFW went without a hitch, amazingly - even had time to peruse the "Vogue" article about Hillary Clinton at a newsstand. Onward flight to DCA was much less irritating than the first one, which had an overabundance of crying infants and fat, unattractive women in sweat pants among the passengers. Found the atmosphere inside the DFW terminal somewhat hellish: crowded with hurrying passengers and just too loud - and a woman with a particularly annoying Texan accent was repeating the same messages in a too-cheerful manner. But much better to be there that day than the next, when bad weather forced American to cancel half their flights. As it was I arrived at National airport early, whereupon I rode the Metro for across town and then walked the final mile to my parents' house in a very cold wind. After showing them my Europe photos, I borrowed my Dad's '71 VW beetle and zipped over to my brother N's house, where I gave him and his wife Q the same show. Among other things, he showed me the cut "Hey Bulldog" sequence from the "Yellow Submarine" film.
After returning to my parents' house, after midnight, I prepared for bed in the room I shared with my brother J for the whole decade of the 1960s. Among all the other stuff stored in this room now, I noticed and looked through a box labeled with my paternal grandmother's name, which contained stuff from her final days in 1984. At that time there was no way I could deal with her death; I was not among my family members who closed out her Missouri apartment and arranged/attended the funeral. The item of real interest was a package of snapshots - seemed like somebody shot a roll of film in her rooms right after they removed the body. I never saw the place, but I easily recognized a lot of her stuff, including the pale blue glass ashtray my Mom passed along to me - it saw a lot of action through the following decade, but then it was busted in an unfortunate accident. The last few snaps were of the open casket at the funeral - too much.
The next morning I was driving through rush hour traffic to my opthmologist appointment, where my eyes were dilated so even with overcast skies it was too bright outside. But I did get a new prescription (now, for bifocals) and had fun reminiscing with my old acquaintance. (And the visit was no charge.) After dealing with annual CD issues at my branch of the Riggs Bank in Falls Church, and having my traditional `Acapulco' lunch at the "Tippy Taco House" nearby, I drove into the city and found a parking space on 7th street between Constitution and Independence, passing the Washington Monument with its odd new sheath of a special scaffolding it'll wear for a year or two during exterior renovation. I walked away from that and entered the National Gallery of Art, passing a scalper-guy near the door repeating "Van Gogh tickets", softly. I tried to get one from the people walking in <1>, but after receiving only laughter in response I gave up; I've seen the pictures in the show elsewhere; it wasn't why I was at the National; but later I heard my brother H was there at about the same time with two other people from his job and a spare ticket! Oh, well. I walked on next door to the newer East Wing for the Edo show - fabulous stuff... and guess what? The "Great Wave" (by Hokusai) was there! Also of especial note were a couple of amazing, large painted screens by Soga Shohaku, of Daoist Immortals "who had discovered the secret of eternal life;" plus a big Utamaro: "Two Women Preparing Sashimi".
Under ever-grayer skies I drove south, and on the 14th street bridge over the Potomac River I had the first of a series of automotive troubles that would bother me until after I left Richmond the next day. This was a sudden loss of gas peddle functionality, which fortuitously occurred on a ramp where I could pull over easily. Initially I thought "I'm screwed" because the accelerator cable was busted and I had no spare, nor tools to replace it <2> but closer inspection revealed the angled metal end of the cable had merely slipped out of the bracket under the peddle. I reinserted it in a move which would become all too familiar during the next five hours of the worst sort of stop-n-go winter traffic - the thing must've slipped out twenty times during the hundred miles down I-95 to Richmond and my brother J's house. (Sometimes I couldn't pull over - I'd be in the middle lane with no option except to switch on the emergency flashers and then hunker down and do the repair by feel, as quickly as possible.) Also, my Dad has replaced his stock windshield washer system (powered by the spare tire's pressure) with a much better electric one, but I forgot about this upgrade and its new switch under the dash and just figured the tire was low. Given none of that special antifreeze fluid, I also had to stop every so often to scrape the windshield. Now comes my Christmas miracle: we were all driving slow and bunched up because it had begun to sleet, and the wail of emergency vehicles began to sound with the appearance of flashing lights. The road was slick and people were losing it. Passing a car, I lost it - the worst skid I've ever had, going into a 540° spin. I finally came to rest on the shoulder, pointed back towards the oncoming traffic. I switched off the headlights as a courtesy to my fellow drivers, and thanked my lucky stars for avoiding any collision with guard rail or other vehicle. After slowly bring the bug about I was on my way again, finally arriving after five hours. Incomplete directions forced a backtrack through downtown Richmond before I reached their door. J and his wife J fed me tasty mac'n'cheese but since I was so late no play with the two-year-old twins until the following morning.
The next day everything was encased in ice. The situation looked grim, sitting in the living room hearing the occasional muffled boom of an ice-encased tree branch's fall. I heated up the car for an hour while scraping it, and once I got out of the suburban development and its icy streets everything was fine. Before departing I had J stand at the vehicle's rear and hold the throttle back while I effected repairs, installing the accelerator cable's end the correct way - no more troubles there. (The problem: it had been installed backwards, so was held only by friction instead of mechanical tension.) Driving north I was thinking I was too tired to execute the other leg of my planned road trip, visiting my brother H to give my niece R her gift (of the Murmurs' record), but the roads were fine and I really got into a speech radio C-Span was broadcasting, so I just kept driving. It was Noam Chomsky doing a lecture at the University of Maryland last month. <3> He said the rich are finally starting to feel the gradual decay most of us have experienced in the U.S. since the early 1970s, and he explained everything - said the turning point occurred around August - now the "right" people (the agenda-setters, or something he calls the Virtual Senate) are getting worried about Things To Come, since they too are being effected. I was astonished to hear the anti-establishment voice of Dr. Chomsky was being broadcast by C-Span.
Anyway, I arrived at H's house (in the countryside north of Frederick) as the sunset was fading, and H proudly showed off his new Subaru all wheel drive SUV. Had fun playing with my nephew M and talking also with S, my brother's second wife. When R showed up we ordered (bad American) pizza from "Mongo", and exchanged some gifts, since R will celebrate Christmas with her mother (my brother H's first wife, who has R on weekdays). Eventually I had to go, arriving back at my parents late in the evening. I now write this on my Dad's computer, which he just had a bad accident with - deleted his \WINDOWS directory by mistake, and has so far only restored skeletal functionality. But Notepad's all I need to write this with, while the parents are off at the midnight church service.
CD - Certificate of Deposit
DCA - National Airport in Washington DC
DFW - Dallas/Fort Worth International airport
SUV - Sport Utility Vehicle
VW - Volkswagen
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<1> Unlike his big 1984
and 1985 shows at the Metroplolitan in New York City. Then
I got in using this same method, at David's suggestion, and
after about ten polite requests at the top of those steps,
to well-dressed groups of people walking in, I had a spare
ticket - and they had to pay for 'em then!
<2> Unlike the time
in 1985 when I came across another beetle driver in
distress. It was past midnight and I was driving home
to Adams-Morgan, from the evening shift at Goddard
during a space shuttle mission. She was the vivacious
Octavia from Tennessee, and her beat-up green
convertible sat in the lot off Florida Avenue at the
bottom of the New York Avenue bridge over the train
tracks - I pulled up behind and then assessed the
situation. Her accelerator cable had snapped, but I
had a spare (this was before I went over to the dark
side of Toyota, back when I was driving my own '71/72
beetle) and slipping into chivalry mode I messed up
some good clothes effecting the repair. After almost
an hour's work in near darkness she drove away with a
thank-you wave. A few days later she bought me a drink
at "Columbia Station" and after that I never saw her
<3> With questions at the
end from the audience - the first one wondering what he thought
about Y2K. Dr. Noam expressed my own fears about Soviet
missile-launching, but generally concluded that "nobody knows".
The last question was concerning the pronunciation of his family name.