Three years ago Friday, on my birthday in 2002, I got onto a plane in San Francisco with a one-way ticket to Boston. I had a reservation at a cheap hotel but no permanent place to live; I had an interview lined up with guys I had worked with before but no actual job offer; and I was leaving behind a relationship with a lot of stress in it, but that wasn't actually over. It was raining and grey and miserable when I arrived in Boston at the tag end of March.
It was great. I got the job, I found a place to live, and I spent months high on the novelty of a new city and a making a gamble pay off. I'm a gypsy at heart. (The relationship, unfortunately, I couldn't salvage -- I don't think it was salvageable. That's a long story I don't mean to go into right now.)
Three years have passed since. I don't know what happened to them, but I'm still feeling like I belong in Boston. Here I have a circle of friends like none I've ever had before, and it keeps growing.
So, friends, birthday, road trip -- it wasn't planned as a party; it was just the day when people were available, but it worked out excellently. Nothing wrong with planning a celebration, but it's even better when it happens naturally.
I'd been wanting to put together a road trip to a Québecois cabane à sucre for a couple years. Québec produces 3/4 of the world's maple syrup, and in the spring the most pur laine québecois thing I know of is to go out to one for the maple-drenched festin des sucres meal. There's a cabane near Sherbrooke that's pretty much a straight shot up I-93 to I-91 and half an hour over the border -- I figured four, maybe four-and-a-half hours, so with the right spirit of adventure and damn the torpedoes, we could be there and back in a one-day road trip, no problem. fanw, moominmolly, and dilletante were the right kind of crazy to join me; we got lucky with a beautiful sunny spring melting day; everything went just to order except that my brother was stuck in Iowa on business and couldn't join us.
We hit the road at 8 am, for brunch in Manchester at a diner that appeared not to have been redecorated since 1949. Apparently the place is big on the NH primary campaign circuit -- one plaid-wallpapered wall was covered with photographs of candidates: "Gary Hart for a New America 1984", that kind of thing. Molly was delighted by the one of a woman fondling Clinton's manly man-chest as he looked down beatifically.
In Bethlehem, NH, we bought Cadbury Creme Eggs at the gas station from two ladies in flowery straw Easter hats.
Fanw introduced us to Manu Chao in the car; Molly to Captain Jack, who had heard "In the Navy" and thought, "this is good, but it's not gay enough." And we managed to be playing Johnny Cash's "Wanted Man" as we rolled up to the Canadian border post.
We had the afternoon to poke around before dinner. We drove into Sherbrooke without a map or any idea where we were going, but with the luck of fools we stumbled on one end of the Magog River gorge trail as if we had planned it. Travel often works out that way if you give it the chance.
Sherbrooke centre-ville is a pretty town to wander through; half-frozen rapids, waterfalls, and early twentieth-century stone architecture. We picked a cafe at random on Wellington St, and it turned out they served a fabulous prize-winning gateau from the 9th World Pastry Championships. Molly wanted a copy of the poster for a zombie-themed anti-capitalism rally from last October we found in various places, but the ones that had survived the winter were well pasted and not going anywhere. If I recall correctly, it promised fun for the whole family, Ronald Reagan, and mangeant les cerveaux.
"So Frenchy, and yet not European at all." -- Molly, bemused by the suburbs of Sherbrooke.
The one downside of it being a warm sunny day was that Haut Bois Normand did not have their 1500-foot snow tubing run open when we got there. We tried a walk into the woods, but the road was a mudpit and we didn't have the footwear for it. Molly and Fanw had a high-noon photo-duel; I do not know who won as I have not yet seen the pictures.
Fanw has already described the dinner with great enthusiasm; I stole my title from her. I don't have much to add, except to note that one of the traditional Québecois folk songs sounded an awful lot like the Hampster Dance. We couldn't sing along, but we could pound the tables in rhythm.
We eventually rolled back into Somerville at 11:59.
A wonderful time. I am worn out today, but happy.
I just reread my last entry, and realized I went directly from talking about how great it is to have friends in Boston to raving about a particular road trip. I hope no one felt left out! I just could only fit three passengers in my car.
It was really a whole birthday weekend that has me feeling up right now. I'm not going to name anyone else because I don't mean to make the same mistake twice in a row, but: there was gaming on Thursday. A jazz concert with a friend singing on Friday night. More gaming on Saturday afternoon. A the-calendar-says-it's-spring-so-it's-time-for-a-barbeque barbeque Saturday night. Road trip on Sunday. Impromptu dinner out and BSG-watching last weekend, and party invitations, and expedition to Good Times. More gaming this week, I think, and four square next Sunday, and a video night, and a Fluttr concert where, if I manage to get there, I know I'll know a bunch of people in the audience. The ability to go to the Diesel to hang out and more than likely randomly run into someone I know.
I like my life here and you all should know that.