Post on first half of my vacation. Second half to follow.
I knew that on Saturday (December 30) I would need to get up super early to make my flight at 7:45. So, I decided not to sleep that night. I had some extra caffeine and left all the lights in my apartment on, and did fine staying up, packing, watching South Park, etc. However, 2 hours before my flight was supposed to leave (and about 5 minutes before I walked out the door), I received an email from Expedia that there had been a change in my itinerary and to contact them immediately.
I called them and was on hold for about half an hour, during which time I switched to a headset and took off for the airport, since I was getting dangerously close to missing my flight. On the way there I finally got through. The representative said that the flight was already cancelled, and that she could call the airline and ask them about rescheduling. She did that and they put her on hold for 20 minutes, by which time I was parked in a gas station at the airport. When she said they had an expected wait time of yet another 40 minutes, I told her I would just go to ticketing.
I waited in the ticketing line for about an hour after confirming on the board that the flight (which was to New York City, where I was to transfer to another plane to Pittsburgh) had been cancelled. The two men in front of me had been on the same flight, though actually going to New York, and one of them was on the phone with an airline rep who told him that there were simply no seats available to go to New York, so I was pretty worried. But when I got to the front of the line, the ticket agent immediately gave me a direct ticket to Pittsburgh. Guess it must be a more popular place to leave than to go to for New Year's. Since it was a direct flight, I was only going to be 2 hours later than I would have arrived anyway. That flight was then itself delayed slightly and had a long taxi, but I still arrived only 3 hours late (though my only sleep for about the past 32 hours at this point had been dozing in the airport and on the plane).
I took the 28X, since I was going to the Cabana and it would take me 98% of the way there. On the way, I realized that the word “pilgrimage” applies to my visiting Pittsburgh as literally as it will ever apply to me. As the bus pulled up Morewood and Fifth, where I was going to get off, I saw someone out the window. He looked a lot like Ed.
He was, in fact, Ed, who by coincidence was walking by that exact spot at the same time I arrived. He was also going to the house where he was staying, which turned out to be about a block from the Cabana, so we talked on the way.
When I arrived at the Cabana, Doug was surprised to see me, as he evidently hadn't seen my email of the day before reminding people of my visit. He introduced me to a new Cabana Annex inhabitant (who now has the room that once was mine), Naveen. We went to La Fiesta for food, and shortly after I passed out and slept for about 11 hours.
I had sent Laura a text message while on the bus from the airport, asking her to call me. She had replied saying she was busy at the moment and (unsurprisingly) forgotten to call later. So after I woke up, I called her while walking to Murray to get something to eat. It was probably pretty obvious that I wanted a chance to hang out with her, and as it turned out, she was going to be at the Embassy shortly, packing. I walked over there.
We talked about our plans for the next decade or two, as far as jobs and geographic locations (I think each of us expects both of these factors to change). It was a surprisingly serious conversation considering it took place while Laura was packing and with about 8 people in the next room watching a football game. Towards the end, she made cards for the Harris Grill staff, where the New Year's party would be held later that evening, and then we caught the last five minutes of regular time in the Steelers game, during which Cincinatti improbably missed a 38-yard-field goal to hand it to the Steelers in overtime (to the cheers of everyone watching there).
After that, I went back to the Cabana. We ordered food; I intended only to pick at my eggplant and tofu, but ended up eating the whole thing. I also got some milk thistle pills and a B vitamin from Doug. Later that evening, I would drink a gin and tonic, a rum and coke, a raspberry framboise, and a martini, but between the food in my stomach, the supplements, and the fact that I seriously tried to alternate with water, I ended up the least hungover the next day that I have been after any significant drinking episode in recent memory.
The next thing was the New Year's party. I had found a pinstripe suit in my closet, and decided that that would be close enough to “evening attire” and that it would be a nice change from my interview suit. I had no idea where it had come from, though; I found out later in my vacation that my dad had purchased it at an Albany Academy yard sale for $3.
I walked to the Harris Grill from the Cabana, which fortunately was about the same distance as the Embassy had been, but in the opposite direction. Other than the aforementioned drinking, I talked to several people, including Karl, Annette, Steph, and Ed, and listened to KT talk about her plans. Two people were more present as presences drifting through the party: Laura, beautiful as ever, and D, who was stunning but seemed to be having a nervous breakdown. I kept meaning to compliment D on her dress but being too nervous to do it, and then when she snapped “your generation sucks” or something equivalent at me (I'm sure she did not intend for it to be taken at all seriously) I was kind of thrown off, though I did finally get over it and tell her that she looked great.
After the party ended, I went back to the Cabana to get changed, then attempted to find the afterparty, but never managed to get in touch with anyone involved. I ended up going back to the Cabana and talking to Will until about 6, when I fell asleep.
While wandering around the previous night, I had realized that I didn't really accomplish all that much in 2006, and that part of the reason was that there hadn't been much specific I had set out to accomplish. I had then started mentally laying out some things I could try to accomplish in 2007. One of the categories was “social”, and chronologically, the first in that category was “go to Mallorca”. Mallorca is a Spanish restaurant and also a DPB tradition to go to on New Year's Day. Unfortunately, it's also extremely heavily meat-based—so much so that this year DPB (mostly Fred) had tried to find another option, but settled on Mallorca again when it became apparent that no one else could really give us what we wanted.
Though I wanted to appreciate the effort that had gone into the search, it didn't really alleviate the awkwardness I felt at having so few food options, so I had been considering not going. But when I examined this decision, it was obviously pure stubbornness, and would hurt me to boot, by depriving me of a pretty significant chance to see all the DPB people again. So I called Ed when I woke up and asked him how he was going there. He said bus, and I said I'd go with him. We actually ended up riding in Fred's car instead.
As it turned out, there were 3 veggie appetizers—one that I had ordered and 2 by other people—and I ended up overloaded on them. I picked at my spinach ravioli, had several glasses of sangria, and was quite full by the time everything ended, in addition to enjoying myself.
Only a couple of hours after Mallorca ended and I went back to the Cabana, we (we being Doug, Naveen, and Fiona and Chris) went out yet again, bound for Upudi. This was vegetarian South Indian food, which is Naveen's native cuisine and differs from the more typical (in the USA) North Indian food in consisting large of little sauces / curries / soups into which bread can be dipped or with which rice can be mixed. We also brought a bottle of sangria there, so I was sipping sangria and picking at food practically all day. By the time we left, I was incredibly stuffed.
The last thing I did Monday was watch Layer Cake, which I had previously tried to watch (I forget which night) but fallen asleep during. It was pretty good. I even think I mostly got it, despite my feeling of late that I'm just a little too dense to get the plots of most complex movies in realtime.
On Tuesday, in the minutes before final preparations to leave Pittsburgh for Albany, I fixed Ragnar. He had been offline for months and I hadn't really been able to contact anyone who could do anything about it, but the problem proved to be simpler than I had expected: no ethernet cable connected to him.
Then I rode the 28X with Ed to the airport and we talked on the way. He thought his flight was around the same time as mine, but as it turned out he was incorrect and missed his flight, so he had to rebook his ticket. My flight to Newark was delayed and I wouldn't have been able to make my connection to Albany, but they just bumped me up to the previous flight to Newark (which was also delayed; apparently flights to Newark had been delayed all day) and I made it with no problem. They were annoyingly small planes, though; I had no shot at getting my bag into the tiny overhead areas and had to gate-check it. I wish I could always fly 737s.
When I got to Albany, my mom, my sister, and Vic met me there. Thus begins the second leg of my vacation.