Friday evening I flew from Salt Lake to Phoenix. I had a three hour stopover there, and conveniently, Alex's father (this is Alex 3, not Russian Alex or British Alex, but Ardent Reader Alex, or perhaps American Alex) is living there right now -- his whole family is in the process of moving there. Mitch (Alex's dad) took me out to a yummy Cuban restaurant, and we had a great conversation over dinner (he had fish in this incredible almond sauce, and I had chicken grilled with orange, lime and garlic, which was surprisingly good -- and the flan was amazing!) about food and sex and how lives have changed over the last few decades and what the future might hold. He's doing cutting edge research with the Kronos group in Phoenix on the aging process, so we spent a while talking about why we get older and if/when it might be possible to slow down or stop that process. One of the nicest stopovers I've ever had.
Then back to the airport, and a red-eye to Baltimore. Alex met me at the airport and we went back to his parents' old house (where his mother and brother still live) to sleep a few more hours. When I did finally get up, I met little brother David (17) and his mother, who is just a delightful woman. There's something I really like about those of my friends' parents who were serious idealists when they were young -- they seem to have a very sane and balanced perspective now. They have a sort of wisdom that I'd like to have someday... Alex likes them too, which is nice. So many of my friends didn't get along with their parents when I was growing up -- it always makes me happy when I meet people who do really like their folks.
We eventually managed to leave the house, taking David with us to the Baltimore Aquarium. The Monterey Aquarium still has my heart -- I did have such a lovely time there that day with Jed, and its design is still the most aesthetically pleasing that I've seen. And oh those jellyfish, and ah the petting pool for the rays... But the Baltimore Aquarium is quite fabulous in its own right. One of the best things about it is its design -- as you do each level, you go up various ramps and escalators, leading up to what is currently a rainforest exhibit (complete with birds) at the top. The levels hold in the center a large oval tank. Then, when you get to the top, you come down a set of ramps inside the tank. It's hard to explain, but it makes for a very thorough and manageable tour. So many museums just get overwhelming, with vast arrays of rooms to wander through...I really appreciate a good design, the kind that makes the art approachable.
In the evening we had Italian food and then rented a truly wonderful little movie, Illuminata. Jed, you should see this -- it's so clever, and it's about a playwright, among other things. And Kirstie (I know you're probably not reading this, and maybe now isn't the best time anyway), I really think you'd like this too; it's a period piece and a romance and a bit of a farce. And hey, the rest of you munchkins would probably like it too. :-) Good conversation all day, then I collapsed into bed around midnight.
Woke up at 10:30 today -- I was really tired! Still am a bit. Lounged around in the morning chatting with the three of them; Alex's mom made coffeecake with orange and pecan and brown sugar. Drank tea and started to feel like a civilized human being again. Eventually did manage to get out of the house, and Alex and I went into D.C. I'm not sure when was the last time I really saw D.C. -- I don't remember going after 8th grade, though I think I must have.
We went to the Library of Congress, because I hoped to see a copy of my book there, but sadly it appeared to be closed on Sundays. Oops! It was still a bit of a thrill standing on the steps, knowing it was somewhere inside that massive and truly impressive building. Dale, you reading this? Thanks again!!! I wish I'd made you more money with it... :-)
Then we walked to the National Gallery. It was quite cold; my ears got a bit numb. But the forsythia is starting to bloom and some of the pink plum trees and we saw a few branches of white crabapple blossoms and hosts of golden daffodils. I'm probably too early for the cherry blossoms, although they may come in just before I leave. D.C. is so lovely. I had forgotten. The buildings are stately and impressive; the reflecting pool is peaceful, and the streets are broad and tree-lined. I must admit that as we passed the Capitol I had to resist the urge to break into patriotic song.
You think I'm kidding, don't you? I'm serious -- I had "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" on the tip of my tongue... I may have quite a few problems with some aspects of the way we run this country, and I may even have some doubts about the value of nationalism overall -- but the truth is that I really do love America, in a very deep-rooted and largely irrational way. Maybe I'll make Russian Alex take me out to the Statue of Liberty when I get to New York...
We had a very late lunch at the Garden Cafe (was that the name? something like that?) in the Gallery, which was yummy (though I admit to lusting more over the Jamaican jerk chicken salad Alex ordered than over my own ham/apple/gruyere sandwich. ah well) and then walked around a bit. I wish I knew more about art. One of these days I'll take an art history class, really I will. In the meantime, I do like walking around galleries. The Rembrandts were particularly...satisfying. That's the best word I can come up with right now to describe them. So rich...
Then back to Alex's place, hung out for a while, came back to his mom's house, had dinner, and watched The Tall Guy which I had convinced them to rent the night before. They had never seen it! His mom adores Emma Thompson! It has what may be the funniest sex scene in film! (Although, oddly enough, Illuminata has one to rival it.) I laughed just as hard this time (third time through, I think) as the rest of them. Afterwards, we said goodnight, and now I am contentedly lying in Michael's bed (absent brother, moved to San Francisco for grad school and is currently dropping out to make big bucks in computers), trying not to lust too hard after his framed Narnia poster (just lovely, and I wish I knew where to find another copy), enjoying the peace of this house.
That's something I really want to do. Create a home where people can come and regain their sanity. That seems so necessary these days... A place with comfortable beds, warm blankets, plants and sunlight and solid meals served regularly. Good conversation. And privacy when you need it. (Heh. I sound like I'm describing a bed-and-breakfast rather than my own home, eh? Well, that has its appeal, but I really think I've taken on enough careers at this point -- I probably shouldn't take on another. :-)
Anyway, I'm just feeling really happy. I'm tempted to go talk to Alex a bit more, but I should probably just sleep. G'night.