11 October 2007

The Off-Season Vacation (part 1)

When I was growing up, my immediate family always made the 9-11 hour trek to Virginia to visit the extended fam in one day. For the past several years though, my parents have split the drive into two days since they have less stamina, and so they can stop and mess around more on the way. It'd been over a decade since I'd last spent more than 2 hours in a car with them, and I was not looking forward to more than quadrupling that figure for the vacation Mom had planned even if it was broken up.

I asked Dad about borrowing his portable CD player as I thought of playlists to burn, but in a prudent stroke of goodwill, they gave me my first iPod for my birthday a week and a half before the trip. I'd often said I didn't have much use for one since I don't travel much anymore: I had no idea how happy it'd make me.

Typically Mom sits in back since I have long legs, but I mostly let my calves fall straight down from my knees so it isn't a big deal; their car is pretty roomy anyway. Sitting alone in back however, there's no significant expectation to engage in conversation and none to navigate. My iPod contained a condensed collection of my iTunes library, all favorites, that kept me in good spirits for the first leg.

The water bottle holder on the side of my backpack provided a decent place to put the iPod while it was playing since I don't have a case for it yet other than the box it came in. (Any styles or brand suggestions for a 2nd generation nano? Flip case or plastic snap-on cover? Open click wheel or not? Seriously, I'm overwhelmed with all the choices so any advice would be greatly appreciated.)

We stopped at a Home Depot Design Center for a break: that place was cool. Full room kitchen displays; all sorts of sinks, tubs, and commodes, appliances; rooms of lamps and fans you can try out; and all the handles or knobs you could ever need. That night we stayed at a Marriot in a suburb of Philadelphia. Great mattress-even better than the one I have at home, terrible room location. I was right across from a side entry to the building and the door kept clicking open and slamming shut late into the night and then early on all morning. Nonetheless, I was still stoked for the one part of the vacation that I'd had any real say in.

After lunch at Michael's Deli, a sizable restaurant in the back of a mini-mart/butcher's/fishmonger's, we drove into Philly to the Franklin Institute Science Museum to see the King Tut exhibit. It was a Saturday and the second-to-last day of the exhibit, so the place was a mob scene. If I'd been traveling alone and known they were going to keep the exhibit open 24 hours/day that last weekend, I would've gone in the middle of the night.

Still, the exhibit was very cool and well displayed. Nearly all cases could be viewed from all sides, generally with the accompanying text printed on each of the 3 front-facing sides of the cases. The craftsmanship of the pieces was exquisite. There was a gold covered box made to house a missing statue that I loved. You could see the footprint for the missing statue inside. Outside, it was totally covered in hieroglyphs. Amazing decoration on all sides and the top.

I also liked the cane with the body of Nubian curved over the top of the handle in submission- a disturbing image, but beautiful piece.

The rectangular pectoral with the back counterweight that Tutankhamun probably wore at his coronation was sweet. I'll take one of those, please.

The gold decorated dagger and sheath that was on Tut's mummy was also very cool as was the cartouche-shaped box made of wood with fine carvings on it.

The gold Coffin of Tjuya (Room 4 on the gallery preview map) was amazing in person. It must weigh a ton.

Perhaps my favorite item of all was the large piece of stone balustrade (Room 5 on the gallery preview map) with Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their daughter below the Aten, the sun's rays ending in hands, presenting ankhs to the pharaoh and his family. Very cool, makes me want to sculpt bas relief.

The gift shop was pretty unimpressive as far as I was concerned. The postcard selection was kind of lame, but I picked up a few (95 cents each, damn) only to discover later that they were glossy on both sides giving them a terrible writing surface. (My pens kept giving out even though they had ink. I struggled through 2 cards and ended up doing the 3rd a couple of days later with one of my niece's crayons.) I liked the small statue of Sekhmet, but the quality wasn't that good, certainly not $40 worth. I did find a cool Ankh thumb ring for myself at last however.

I met up with Mom and Dad and we grabbed a snack at Ben's Bistro in the museum before the Mysteries of Egypt IMAX show. (Note to self: you were right, higher is better. Next time, sit even further up the stadium.) If you can't get to Egypt, an IMAX movie of it has to be close to the next-best-thing.

When we got out of the movie, it was almost 7 o'clock. After we'd checked out the regular museum gift shop, Mom said she was done and asked if we were. Dad said he was done and they both looked at me expectantly. I wanted to see what the rest of the museum had. "I'd like to see what else is on this floor," I said.

"Everything else is closed, isn't it?" Mom said.

I didn't think so, but she seemed sure which made me unsure. I felt pressured to leave, so I said, "I just want to see what's down this way," heading quickly down the hall for a cursory survey. This was where I made my mistake. They started following me, but the next time I looked back they were gone.

Other exhibits on the floor were still open. It was just the demonstrations that were done for the day. There was a large room full of displays and interactive games about the heart and its function. I was a little bummed they hadn't come because some of the games looked like fun. I looked back out the way I'd entered but didn't see them. I decided to take a quick look around before heading back. I walked through the giant heart model and then entered a room of displays all about electricity. Seeing a Jacob's ladder, I couldn't pass up pressing the button to see the sparks climb up, before exiting into another hallway.

My cell rang. "Hello?"

"Where are you?" Mom said.

"I'm in a side hall, where are you?"

"In the atrium."

"Ok, I'll meet you there."

There was a pissed off vibe coming from them as I walked up, but Mom said, "Have you seen Logan's circle?"


We stepped outside to the spectacular nighttime view of the park and surrounding buildings. Then, she hit me with, "You know your father wouldn't tell you if you pissed him off, but he thought it was really rude of you to walk away without saying anything like that."

"I can speak for myself," Dad said, "That was damn rude."

"I did say something," I said.

"You didn't say 'boo shit.'"

"I said, 'I wanted to see what else was down the hall.'"

"No, you didn't," Mom said.

Neither had heard my last comment, so to them it looked like I had just taken off, and neither was hearing my explanation now, so I said, "I'm sorry."

Mom said, "It would've been fine if you'd just told us you wanted to look around some more."

There had been such finality in their tones when they said they were done that I hadn't gotten that impression at all before. Maybe I was at fault, but it started with them staring me down after their "I'm done"s. To say now so reassuringly that they wouldn't have cared felt like a cheat to make me feel worse. I wanted to say as much but I kept my mouth shut, thinking It's only day 2.

I walked down a few steps away from them, ostensibly so I could see the front of the Institute with its massive columns and large "King Tut" banner. Then I looked away from them, out at Logan's Circle, trying to shake off their comments with the beautiful view. It didn't really work; I still felt physically ill from their reprimands.

We went back in so we could get to the subterranean parking lot. Leaving Philadelphia proved more difficult than driving in because some streets had been closed off for an event. Even though they weren't acting pissed off towards me anymore, I sat quietly in the back seat only speaking to offer up street names needed for navigation.

I didn't feel hungry at all but agreed to go back to Michael's Jewish deli for a late dinner. In the next hour, I summoned enough equilibrium to order and enjoy most of an open faced turkey sandwich. It's the only place I've eaten with a help yourself pickle bar. As Dad was paying for dinner at the mini-mart register on our way out, I noticed they sold barbeque flavored sunflower seeds.

Then it was back to the hotel with the great mattress and the loud clunking doors. 9 days to go.


One year ago at TTaT: The Road is my Favorite Place: Day 7
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  1. You are a saint, taking a vacation with your parents. Parents have a knack for treating their adult children like little kids. It's a real pain.

  2. Elisabeth: So the fact we met up with my brother and his family for a week makes me a demi-god, right? ;) Well, you can judge for yourself when I finish writing the rest.