Last Wednesday: Dance practice.
Last Thursday: Pack and prep. Wandered down to the mall in possible search of a nice small wheeled suitcase, but recoiled in sticker shock from how much the decent ones cost. Decided that a duffel bag will serve me just fine for this trip, even if I do need to bring a suit.
Friday: Travel to Chicago for rickthefightguy's wedding.
I decided to travel via Manchester instead of Logan, which msmemory and I have been preferring to do lately. It meant taking an indirect flight, but Manchester is just so much more pleasant an experience than Logan that it was still a blessing. Got there early enough that I was able to redo my seats, and get emergency exit rows for both of the outbound legs. This made me much happier with life in general: the extra two inches of legroom in those rows make all the difference in the world.
Once again got tripped up at the metal detector: as far as I can tell, the change in the outer pocket of my beltpouch counted as suspicious, so they had to hand-inspect it. They were polite enough about it, but I am ruefully amused at the way the rules keep getting tightened, such that there's always some new reason I don't make it through. (Last time, it turned out that the metal shanks in my shoes are now enough to set off the newly-hypersensitive alarm bells.)
Wound up with a moderately long layover in Philadelphia -- the connection to Chicago was running late, so I had a couple of hours to kill. That was fine (I didn't have the day tightly planned to begin with), so I wound up poking around the mini-mall in the airport.
That turned out to be dangerous: they had a nice electronics toystore, which I was sucked into just to see what the current generation of Palms look like. Instead, my attention was drawn by the mini-speaker table, which had display models of several different travel speakers. This is a matter of particular interest to me, because the Sony T77 speakers I use with our laptop are nice enough, but a bit too quiet for Accademia. I had them do comparison runs of the different models, and the Philips travel speakers completely blew the rest of the pack away: clearer sound, and a controllable volume knob that goes about twice as loud as the Sonys. They're rather larger than the T77s, but still quite portable: a decent compromise for me. So I wound up carrying a box of (cute little) speakers with me for the rest of the trip.
Car rental was uneventful -- I am again glad that National makes it so easy to choose your own car, but was a bit distressed that it took three tries to find a decent one. (First one smelled of urine and/or cleaning solution; second had a cracked windshield.)
The drive to Joliet sucked: it was a good thing that I'd allowed a lot of slack time in my schedule, because I needed every bit of it. First of all, I had failed to understand just how big the Chicago metropolitan area is -- my map of "greater Chicago" covers an area about the size of eastern Massachusetts -- so Joliet was rather further than I had realized. Second, due to the delay in Phila., I got there during rush hour, and it was badly jammed up. So it took about 1.5 hours to get to my hotel: I got there just in time to drop my bags, quickly call msmemory, and then head over to the rehearsal dinner.
As is so often the case, the rehearsal dinner was really nothing of the sort: Rick was caught in the same traffic jam I had been, and wasn't there yet when I got there, so they punted the rehearsal. The result was a casual hang-out-and-chat evening. Fortunately, Lowell and Kristen were there before me, so I had someone I knew to talk to. Eventually, new_man and mermaidlady showed up, and I wound up having dinner with all of the above; herooftheage and Mara also showed, but sat elsewhere. I had BBQ ribs for dinner (the dinner was at Al's Steak House) -- they were good, although not exceptional.
herooftheage was staying at Harrah's in downtown Joliet, and had been noting that, as casinos go, it was fairly pathetic. He and Mara needed a lift back to the hotel anyway (having found out the hard way that Al's was a long walk from there), and I decided to trail new_man, who drove them back. herooftheage got us a few free entrance tickets, and we confirmed that yes, this casino was best described as "cute". (A fine adjective for puppies, but not for gambling halls.) new_man played some blackjack for a few minutes; he did rather well, but felt like he wasn't really in control of the game, so decided to stop when he doubled his stake.
Headed back to the hotel and crashed. As usual, slept miserably: I sleep badly in hotel beds to begin with, and worse when I'm alone.
Saturday: Largely a nothing of a day until the evening, aside from catching up on my comic book backlog. Got up late, read some comics, showered, read some comics, found a mediocre-but-adequate Chinese buffet for lunch, went back to the hotel, read some comics, went for a swim in the hotel's pool (well, mostly in the whirlpool, which was lovely), showered again, read some more comics. And that takes us to 4:30. Yes, I felt like a slug, but downtown Chicago was further than I wanted for a casual jaunt, and there was apparently nothing much to do in Joliet.
Changed into my suit, and drove over to the Rialto Theater, the aptly-named site of the wedding. Felt a tad underdressed next to new_man and mermaidlady, who looked smashing.
The theater itself was remarkable. You enter into a cavernous hallway, something like 30 feet high, with giltwork all the way up and across. To give you and idea of the scale, the reception dinner was held in that entrance hallway, and didn't feel crowded. The wedding itself was in the lobby, which had an even higher arched ceiling, even more gilt, and marble columns a yard wide, with a lovely balcony running around the circular space. Really one of the most elegant spaces I've been in -- a bit overdone in its Victorian finery, but sincere enough to pull it off.
The wedding ceremony was simple and traditional. They made good use of the balcony, with the bride and bridesmaids sweeping down the stairs to enter. alexx_kay did the "Faith, Hope and Love" reading (which I'm used to as "Faith, Hope and Charity" in Masonic ritual). The processional was Pachelbel's Canon (sp?), and the rest of the music was in similar style. The text was non-denomenational, with one or two typical Jewish touches (eg, the breaking of the glass, which as usual didn't quite go smoothly).
After the ceremony, they chased us into the theater proper so they could set up the reception. This drove home why the ceremony hadn't been in the theater: we would have been lost in it. It's enormous, and quite lovely: double-canopy ceilings with indirect lights concealed in the upper recesses. We spent a while musing on the symbolism of the various reliefs on the walls -- even mermaidlady wasn't able to come up with confident answers of why there were fourteen old men in togas in what appeared to be Aphrodite rising from the waves.
The reception dinner was pleasant. They had decided to deal with the clinking-the-glasses problem by instituting a policy that, whenever the audience started to clink, someone from the wedding party would get up and make a speech. Over and over and over. People really weren't getting the hint, so Rick eventually declared that it would be really nice for everyone to stop that now, so that we could actually eat.
Alexx and I were seated at "The Geek Table" (as Rick had described it the previous night). The geekery was actually a bit subdued, to save the dates from death by boredom -- it mainly showed up in a long linguistics argument, with a bunch of us debating the nature of gender in various languages.
After dinner, I wound up in a rambling LARP discussion. (Unsurprising given that most of the Bostonians present were LARPers.) Didn't really get into the dancing, which tended towards slightly earlier music than I prefer. (My preferences in wiggle dance largely start with New Wave.) Watching Lowell and Kristen, though, once again reminded me that msmemory and I really need to take swing dance lessons one of these days. Eventually went back to the hotel, giving Alexx a lift there.
Sunday: Travel day again. Gave Alexx a ride to the airport (his flight was about 1.25 hours before mine, which wasn't too bad). Went in search of a gas station -- these are carefully concealed, presumably to force people to pay the exorbitant gas fees that the rental car companies charge, but I eventually found one. Returned the car, and headed in to O'Hare.
As expected, dealing with the large airport was more hassle than nice little Manchester. Turned out that my USAir flight was actually run by United, so I had to walk to the other terminal to check in. No emergency exit rows available this time, so I had to squish. (But note to myself: United's "Economy Plus" section is all decent legroom, so I should pay attention to how much extra it costs.)
I carefully remembered all of the things I would have to take out of my pockets and pouch, in order to get through the metal detectors without incident -- so of course, I was randomly selected for "special screening" by my airline. Joy. I was slightly irked, but followed my usual rule of not taking it out on the security people, who proved to be both polite and efficient, so it didn't really take much extra time.
Flight was uneventful, if a bit cramped. Connection was in LaGuardia this time, just long enough to grab a snack (Brooklyn Beer had an outlet right next to my gate, conveniently, so said snack was liquid). Puddle-jumper home to Manchester.
Got home in time to get my weekly date with msmemory, at the Waltham brewpub. They've changed their menu, sadly not for the better: they took out the steak sandwich with hoisin sauce, which was becoming a favorite of mine. Oh, well -- the remaining dishes are still quite good, and I can probably replicate the steak sandwich at home.
Monday: Only notable in that I came to the realization that yesterday's scratchy throat was, in fact, the early signs of a raging headcold.
Tuesday: ladysprite came over after dinner, to pore over period cookbooks with me. We have an event coming up that will need some finger foods, so we're looking for a good variety of dishes, both sweet and savory. I showed her some of the more interesting tidbits from the collection, and she gave a lot of good suggestions of categories of food to consider. Loaned her several CDs of period dance music that I usually consider useless because they're all pavans and almans -- with luck, she'll find some good wedding music in them.
Wednesday: Normally dance practice, but I was still a bit under the weather and not sure whether or not I was contagious. Wrote to Mara to check whether she needed me to bring my sound system; she replied that herooftheage had gotten home with the car, so she didn't need it. So instead stayed home and puttered with a few chores.
Today: Sent links for ToDoList around at work, where it immediately proved an enormous hit. (Thanks, mikekn!) I've been using this for a couple of days now, and am very impressed by it -- while it's not quite a full-bore schedule tool, it does everything you could want a "to do list" to do. Our QE department has immediately decided to adopt it, and the head of QE is evangelizing it all over the company: it does just what they've been looking for in terms of tracking basic task lists. Sent the author a small shareware payment: he didn't really ask for one, but I think it's a good message to send when someone publishes really good freeware.
Tonight: msmemory's birthday. Baby-naming thingy over at hungrytiger and isisofcool's temple. Hopefully a brief date beforehand.
Saturday: Assuming the weather holds up, a bit of wandering around in Boston with msmemory, including hanging out on the Esplanade with ladysprite and company for a while in the midafternoon. Then a birthday dinner over at Blue Ginger (our pick for Best Restaurant in the Boston Area).
Sunday: Fireworks Day. Might go down to the Charles, might go over to Melville Keep, probably spend a while hanging out at elizabear's. In general, we're playing the day by ear.
Monday: Day off, but very little is happening. We'll probably take the opportunity to go see Shrek 2, while everyone else is distracted by Spider-Man.
Tuesday: Accademia. Need to get the music for Este Gonzaga and Austria Gonzaga figured out before this.