The Weekend That Almost Wasn't
I am beginning to believe that the threat level should automatically go to Code Red whenever Bobby and I have a major weekend planned. Last summer, the London bombing occurred just before we were to leave for a weekend in Atlantic City with my boss. Now this. Three times and I'm officially retiring from attempting to have a social life and staying home. It seems that my overzealous schedule is a threat to national security.
But things worked out for us. Well...sort of. Bobby managed to get himself on a 4 a.m. to noon shift early Friday morning. Which meant that he got home from work (having gotten up at 5 a.m.), jumped in the car, and drove to Wolf Trap for the Hootie & the Blowfish concert. Then we came home, and he grabbed four hours of sleep. Then he went into work, came home, jumped back into the car, and drove downtown for a day at the National Aquarium with both sets of parents. After having a family dinner, we went to an 8 p.m. pre-season football game.
So my poor husband got about four hours of sleep in forty-three hours. *pets Bobby*
Otherwise, the weekend was great. I got off from work at 3 p.m. on Thursday after having One of Those Weeks (tm) at my workplace as well. (Though my OoTWs are never anywhere near Bobby's.) We had a fine supper at Subway prior to leaving for the concert, which was held at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Neither of us had ever been to that venue before; it is an outdoor venue with the stage and covered seats and lawn seats in the rear. Little did we know that--unlike most outdoor venues--people are actually encouraged to bring food and liquor into Wolf Trap. Shucks.
Traffic could have been much worse for driving to northern Virginia at rush hour via the Capital Beltway. Wolf Trap was easy to find, and we were an hour-and-a-half early, arriving just before the gates opened. Although, because of the aforementioned allowance of food and booze into the venue, most people with lawn tickets get there that early, camp out, and have dinner and wine on the lawn. Like I said: shucks.
We got decent seats, about midway back on the lawn. Watching everyone around us eat and drink was making my stomach forget the six-inch vegetarian sub, bag of Sun Chips, and twenty-ounce Mr. Pibb that it had enjoyed only an hour before. Next time we know. I told Bobby: to hell with wine; I'm bringing margaritas!
The opening act came on at eight: a band from Richmond called Fighting Gravity. Usually the opening act is merely to be endured, but these guys were really good. Good rock music and surprisingly good at working the crowd and getting everyone on their feet. They were on for about a half-hour and played a nice set, then the setup began for Hootie. They're a simple band, so it didn't take much longer than another half-hour.
Hootie has a special place in my heart. They were the band that got me into rock music, at the tender age of thirteen, having been raised on a steady diet of easy listening. I used to be obsessed with Hootie & the Blowfish. My sister and I would watch MTV every afternoon until we saw one of their videos. We had every video and song memorized. We used to act them out along with the band. Incidentally, when Sharon and I discovered a mutual love of Hootie's music, that's the first time I really started to like my sister too.
The summer when I was thirteen, my best friend at the time talked her mom into driving us to Hershey to see Hootie live in concert. It was my first live concert, except for seeing Boyz II Men at the Earth Day 25th anniversary the year before. (They played for free on the Mall in DC, so "seeing" them more or less meant that I was at Earth Day, they were at Earth Day, and they had very loud speakers, so I rather couldn't help overhearing, though I recall being more interested in getting literature from the various environmental groups.) But that tour was their first tour following their explosion in popularity that year; their second album hadn't even come out.
Eleven years later, I finally got to see them again, and not much has changed. They are still an incredible live band but no surprise there: for ten years, before "hitting it big," they played live, unlike some of the "bands" today that get discovered at age sixteen, just long enough to learn how to play three shoddy power chords and scream off-key into a microphone. (Felak is not a big fan of today's "rock" music.) They played a nice mix from the past eleven years, nothing flashy, just good music. It was nice to sit in the grass and sing to the stars.
"Tucker's Town" was probably my favorite, but this is a special song for me. For some reason, it recollects my life at age fifteen, in love for the first time, struggling through the most rigorous academic program of my life (harder than university even, yes), and for the first time not a social outcast, with friends who shared my interests. Fifteen was a big year for me. Bobby and I got engaged and caused a scandal in our geeky high school where people didn't date much less propose marriage. It was the hardest year of schooling that I've had to date. I told off a teacher and got caught cheating on a programming assignment that year. I got into trouble for neither. But yet there are some fond things to remember too, and "Tucker's Town" brings them all back for me.
"Let Her Cry" also rocked, which is strange, since I probably would have called this my least favorite Hootie song when I was young; now it is one of my favorites. And they played "I Go Blind." Goodness, I nearly died. I never hear that song on the radio much less expect to hear it live; plus, as I pointed out to Bobby, Dean the bassist sings background on that song and he was always my favorite member of the band, even when he went through a weird phase and shaved his head completely bald and looked like a big ol' white egg.
So we had a wonderful time, and it seems like they come to Wolf Trap every year; they mentioned selling out four years in a row now. Well, I'll be back to see them again next year...me and my margarita!
The venue was nice too because--aside from allowing food and booze--they actually staff traffic cops to keep things moving smoothly and so we weren't two hours trying to get off the parking lot like at Hershey or the stupid Patriot Center that I hate more than a person should have to hate an inanimate building.
The next day, when Bobby got home, we left straight away for downtown Baltimore and had lunch at the Harborplace foodcourt. Then we met our parents at the Aquarium. Need I even say that Bobby and I had our noses pressed to the glass of every exhibit in there?
We started in the new Australia exhibit, which is a whole building devoted to an Australian habitat where the birds and lizards roam free. Oh, and the fruit bats: gigantic things hanging high up on the ceiling. I thought that they were awesome and was amused to note that the introduction you hear before going into the exhibit says "flying mammals" rather than "bats," probably knowing that many people would not go in otherwise.
Next, we headed over to "Sharks, Rays, and Reefs." The first exhibit is a huge pool filled with rays, skates, and sea turtles. I think that Bobby and I spent a combined half-hour staring into that pool. And the divers were in the pool when we were there. If we get the position as volunteer Certified Divers, that will be us this time next year!
From there, it is a gradual climb through exhibits to the top of the building, where they keep the rainforest. There were a variety of species from all over the world and two noseprints on each pane of glass with Bobby's and my names on them!
We made it most of the way through that exhibit and it was time for the dolphin show. No matter how many you see (and they're all the same), dolphin shows are always fun. And there was a baby, a year-old calf, that kept me squeeing. And while talking about the qualifications required of marine mammal trainers, they pointed out that trainers study psychology, biology, and have good people-skills. Bobby looked at me, and I said, "Ummmmm...."
We headed back up to the end of the "Sharks, Rays, and Reefs" after the dolphin show and visited the rainforest at the top of the building. This was my favorite section when I was a kid. Now that I've been in the real deal, it's not as exciting, I've found, though it was nice to see some of the species again. Then it was back to the bottom of the building, descending a long, spiraling passageway that is surrounded by big tanks: first the Atlantic reef, then the sharks. Our parents went on ahead to find a seat; they knew that Bobby and I would be a while. We enjoyed finding the species on the Atlantic reef that we had seen in the wild and trying to identify them. When we got to the section with the sharks, one swam right towards us, and we both leaned forward at the same time as it passed, rows of teeth inches from our heads. I turned to Bobby--who was grinning almost as foolishly as me--and said, "We're sick people."
We went to dinner next with our families, to the Capital City Brewing Company. A few years ago, I helped to organize the only live fandom trip in which I have ever participated: a group of LotR geeks to the Baltimore Symphony to hear them play Howard Shore's symphony. We had dinner ahead of time at Capital City, so the place is always reminiscent of geeky glee and the first time that I felt at home with my fannishness and not like some kind of freak. The food was delicious--as always--but for the server, the elevator didn't go all the way to the top floor. For example, it took her twenty minutes after dropping off the check to pick it up again. By then, it was 8:10, and the football kickoff had been at eight.
After getting the money squared away, Bobby and I hustled over to the stadium, which was about a mile walk. We got there just before the end of the first quarter. Steve McNair had already been taken out, which was disappointing but expected. After all, it was in a preseason game against the Ravens three years ago that Michael Vick had his leg broken by our own Adalius Thomas*. Oops.
* A lot of the football players have charities that do various things in the community. Adalius Thomas has something called the S.L.A.S.H. Foundation. Whoa. I could belong to that!
Bobby's friend and coworker Wayne is a sports fanatic, and he has season tickets but couldn't use them Friday night and so gave them to us. Now Bobby and I have been to football games but only ever sat in the 500s section; you know, where you have to climb for fifteen minutes to get to the bottom row, and some surly-looking usher grunts at you to find your seat by climbing till your nose bleeds and the game more resembles a flea circus. But Wayne's tickets were 200-section club level. We had doors opened for us, and the usher offered to wipe our seats. There was carpet. In a football stadium. We were along the side of the endzone; it was incredible.
The Ravens were playing the New York Giants, and they had a solid lead until the very end, when the third string came out, guys I'd never even heard of. The Giants won 17-16 in the last four seconds of the game on a field goal, but who could be disappointed? It was a great game, and everyone knows that the preseason doesn't mean anything.
We walked back to our car and went home. Bobby went to bed, and we prepared to start a weekend of never departing from the Howard County area, highlighted by lots of lounging in the pool, laying about, and eating.