Drinking Bulleit bourbon straight from the 750-milliliter bottle in the hotel bathroom and chasing it with water from a little brittle plastic cup provided by the establishment. It was 1 a.m. and the kids were asleep in the twin beds. If my wife, Megan’s, flight didn’t get here soon, I’d have to cancel my trip.
She was supposed to arrive around midnight from Oregon, and shuttle to the Sheraton connected to Cleveland Hopkins airport. But bad winter weather had her sitting for seven hours in Minnesota, and I needed to leave the room at 5 a.m. for my flight, so the clock was ticking.
Luckily, around 3:15 a.m., there was the unmistakably loud clicking sound of the hotel door opening. My torso shot up creating a hard 90-degree angle to my motionless legs that were over the covers in bed. When did I fall asleep?
“What time is it?” I mostly yelled to my wife instead of what would be considered a normal greeting, especially after being apart for a week, our longest stretch.
“Hi, honey,” she said smiling.
The flight to Boston was instantaneous with Amazon movies downloaded to my phone, and I watched, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” about a recovering alcoholic that gets in a drunken car wreck and becomes paralyzed. But then finds internal salvation, the art of forgiveness and happiness. (Think they should have used a semi colon in the title, but whatever, I can’t talk.) The film initiated more emotion that I wanted, as it can be weird getting teary eyed next to strangers out of nowhere in a confined place. My rowmate in the compact plane (couldn’t stand up straight without my head hitting the ceiling) was a massive human with a headdress and I had to concede the armrest as a matter of physics. But no complaints—you simply can’t beat the speed of air travel. Miss me with your crybaby tales of security lines and layovers—drive or shut up.
The young man explaining to me the features of my rented 2019 Dodge Ram 3500 was speaking so fast and with such a thick Boston accent that I honestly couldn’t understand him. When traveling abroad, you learn to attempt to grasp the general message, not every word, so I just smiled and nodded. My brain was also in full melt, as the lack of sleep and snacks had me slightly shaking with anxiety.
It was empowering sitting in the front seat of that elevated machine, and my moment of power, as I gripped the steering wheel, was interrupted when Good Will Hunting jumped into the passenger seat and starting hitting buttons and talking gibberish and creating awkward silences waiting for a tip that was never going to manifest.
Moments after exiting the airport parking garage, I wanted to take a cautious approach as there was snow on the roads and more coming down. The Masshole drivers didn’t know what cautious driving was, and flew by me with disgust. My Maine plates didn’t help. Speed and aggression increased as the Ram crushed slush towards Providence.
Couldn’t figure out how to turn the seat heater off that The Departed boy activated in the parking garage, so my butt burned for many miles until my brain started cooperating again and I figured it out.
Only took a couple of hours to get to the trailhead of Jerimoth Hill, Rhode Island’s highest point. Really, it was more like a place to pull over along highway 101, and there really wasn’t a trail, and it really wasn’t a hill, and the whole trek through the woods to the survey marker could be down in a half hour, roundtrip.
But I was alone in the RI woods and had fresh tracks from the six inches that fell the night before and there was some attempt to suspend disbelief and act like I was actually doing some real hiking. Cleared the powder that was tablecloth-ing the ground and found the two survey markers and was back to the car, heading south towards the ghetto-less coast of Connecticut.
As the Pulp Fiction line goes, “I mean, they got the same sh** over there that they got here, but it's just, it's just there it's a little different.” The sign along the onramp to the highway said “No turn,” and the posted speed limit font had changed and the letter size, smaller. “Don’t crowd the plow” warnings were along the Leaf Erikson Highway, liquor establishments were called “package stores” and there were many variations of pizza, such as New Haven style.
Made it to the sea-side city of Clinton, CT, and popped into a Walgreens to buy a toothbrush and explode the well-maintained bathroom. Picked up a bottle of Kombucha (since I didn’t have my Kvass), a cheese stick and whole cashews. Wanted shades, but they were $18.
The CT coast is much like most waterfront areas in terms of exorbitant real estate prices, but the look was sooooo New England, with picket fences and railed porches and architecture made to fight the fury of the sea.
My old roommate from San Diego, the Fantastic Fulda, was more than welcoming when I arrived to his house, minutes from the sound.
Down the hallway from the front door, two little heads appeared from the basement steps, as Fulda’s four-year-old twin girls were curiously excited about my presence. Hugs and hellos were exchanged and Fulda and I went for a coastal drive and the girls and the seven-month-old big-cheeked boy stayed home with Fulda’s lovely wife, Kaitlin.
We stopped at Hammonasset State Park and walked on ocean dunes not made of sand, but entirely of seashells, taking deep inhales of existence.
Then to the package store for locally brewed beer (Captain’s Daughter by Grey Sail) and Cabernet. I relayed waiting for my wife at the Cleveland airport.
“Dang, you were like two lovers passing in the night,” Fulda said.
“More like two ships passing, the Edmund Fitzgerald and the Titanic,” I joked.
The remaining hours of the day were spent imbibing and playing with the kids and telling exaggerated stories of our beach bum life together in Southern California.
Fulda built a fire beneath their stone chimney and we ended the evening with a whiskey-on-the-rocks nightcap and before I passed out I thought it must have been 3 or 4 a.m., but I learned later it was only 11:30 p.m. Haha, oh, to be an old dry parent trying to dip toes back into the liquid entertainment world.
Only dry-heaved a few times during the 5 a.m. drive back to Boston’s Logan airport. And after I returned the truck, shuttled to the terminal, got through security, bought gifts for my family, I sat at on an elevated chair with a short backrest and ordered a Bloody Mary.
“Sorry, we can’t serve any alcohol on Sunday until 10 a.m.,” the waitress said.
“What? I thought Boston was some kind of pint-slamming mecca?” I said.
“It’s 9:15, just wait a minute, hon, when’s your flight?”
“9:50,” I said, slithering off the barstool and liver limping towards my gate.