Tuesday, October 13, 2009

And The Day So Fine

"I was drivin' home / By the river side / Richard Thompson on
And the day so fine / Pennsylvania towns / Sort of slip right by
In a soft line south / Under purple skies..." -- Cheryl Wheeler

Phew! What a whirlwind of a week and what a tornado of a week this will be too. Things continue to be busy for me as my department gets closer to launching a huge project at work and this dinner or that event with friends... so much going on! I'm much more busy now than I ever was over the summer.

I was able to take some time this weekend to leave the apartment (gasp! I know) and enjoy the gorgeous weather we had. Even as busy as I was over the weekend, I came back into work Monday morning feeling light and refreshed.

Friday night was calm with Tad and I substituting our usual Friday lunch date for a dinner date with his sister and her boyfriend at McGinty's. Nothing like homemade beef stew and a few pints of Guinness to set us all at ease after a rough week.

Saturday was spent staying in bed until roughly 3 p.m. (only to get up to make a small breakfast at 11:30. God, those mornings are the best and way too infrequent). By 3:15, I hauled my lazy butt out of bed and met Daozhong at Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda to watch the Ireland vs. Italy and Portugal vs. Hungary games (I wasn't trying to go for an Irish-themed weekend here, honest). Neither games had the outcomes Dao and I were rooting for (Ireland and Italy tied, Portugal crushed Hungary 3-0), but it was wonderful to chat it up with my old friend and former roommate.

Leaving the bar around 6 p.m., we headed over to our friend Ben's house where he graciously fed a whole group of us a delicious spinach and pastry dish and taught us how to make our own sushi -- a surprisingly easier task than I thought it would be.

Preparing to roll up our California roll. Photo by Ben Johnson.

After several reminders to continue to keep our fingers moist so the rice wouldn't pull apart, laying on layers of faux crab (Ben did apologize in advance to me for not having Blue crab), Ben's homemade spicy mayonnaise (excuse me for not remembering the proper name of this exquisite sauce), seaweed sheets (a completely new and foreign thing to me. It felt and looked like a poncho), and fish eggs. Yes, fish eggs. Who knew this came in a plastic tub like it was as natural to buy a tub of fish eggs as it is to buy strawberries.

My hands cutting the California roll Dao and I made. Photo by Ben Johnson.

Sunday was extra special because Tad and I took a day trip up to Gettysburg, Pa. with the intent to bike the entire battlefield - a leftover part of my birthday gift. Only an hour and a half away, we reached the visitor's center around noon and spent two hours exploring the museum, watching a brief movie about the war, seeing a century-old cyclorama painting of the battle of Gettysburg and eating lunch on the grass outside. Sunny, warm, with a nice crisp fall breeze -- we couldn't have planned it better.

With our bike rentals secure, we hit the 24-mile trail around the site, although it wasn't much of a ride because we kept stopping every 5 minutes to read this plaque or see this monument (and of course I was taking pictures, which I promise to add in here later). I hadn't been there since I was 8 or 9 so I didn't recall much, and so I was astounded at how littered the place was with monuments and tributes, each in the exact location where this general fell or this turning point in the three day battle occurred. It was so striking to me to know I was walking on places that had once been stained with blood and bullets, or gazing over the same vantage points where General Lee had once stood, knowing he was nearing the end.

Pennsylvania's monument was the largest one - by far. With marble pillars, a giant platform, enormous statues, it was the only monument you could see from any point on the trail. We rode through turning woods, down hills, past the Angle, Little Round Top, Devil's Den, Wheat Field, Peach Orchard, but I'm sorry to say we didn't make it round the whole track. Not that we didn't want to, but by 5:30 p.m. the time on our bike rental was running out.

After dropping the bikes off, we strolled through the Gettysburg National Cemetery where Lincoln had given his famous Gettysburg Address in dedication of the site (something I didn't know until then). I didn't take any pictures here because I'm uncomfortable, maybe even a little superstitious about that. I feel its disrespectful to the dead and I can't exactly explain why. If I had taken pictures, you would have seen hundreds upon hundreds of graves simply marked "Unknown" and only identified by the state emblems on their uniform buttons, if at all.

Driving home, I couldn't help but feel refreshed and accomplished with the weekend. I was outdoors, had exercised, left town for a while, yet still kept a leisurely pace. It was a great, uplifting feeling of satisfying some of that need for adventure that I hadn't had in a long time. Future trips are certainly in the works as far as I'm concerned. Understanding my time is getting short, I'm hoping to still get out to a pumpkin patch farm, or even an orchard to pick my own fruit before the season is over. My next free fall weekend can't come fast enough.

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