Journal Entry: Labor Day in Houston

Last Thursday night, after I got home from work, T– and I spent a while talking, and I played with the baby, and I wrestled with my inner demons and finally settled on watching the entirely insignificant final Cowboys preseason game instead of playing Rock Band. Then, after the game, I played Rock Band.

Friday morning we woke up at 7:00, loaded up the car, and headed out of town. We were in Dallas by 11:00, and we met Grandma and my aunt Darlene for lunch at El Fenix — a family favorite in the area. Then Grandma, who had taken the afternoon off, watched AB for us so T– and I could go to the museum just the two of us.

That was fun. We had to drive an hour across town to get from Dallas proper to the museum in Fort Worth, but on the way we passed the new Cowboys stadium, and it was amazing. Worth the drive just for that.

Then the museum itself was beautiful. It was part of Fort Worth’s cultural district, with a massive park our front and quiet fountains all along the front walk. We went to the Impressionists Exhibit first. On loan from the Chicago Museum of Art, that exhibit was the only reason we’d gone to the museum. After looking through all the Monets and Manets and Van Goghs, T– went to look through the gift shop while I sat down on a bench and did my PT stretches, because my back was killing me.

While T– was shopping she discovered that the museum had, in its permanent collection, one of her favorite paintings by Caravaggio, so we went ahead and strolled through the museum’s permanent collection, and there were some amazing paintings there, too. After spending forty-five minutes in the Impressionists, the stark colors and sharp lines of the older realist paintings really stood out.

Anyway, we were there for a little over an hour, then headed back to Dallas and discovered along the way that the charger for our GPS had exploded inside the cigarette lighter, so we were without GPS for the rest of the trip. That was a bummer.

After we got back, Grandma and I ran out to pick up some barbecue and Darla and Jason came over for dinner. We ended up watching the last ten minutes of Ella Enchanted and then the last fifteen minutes of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, and I finally decided enough was enough and went to bed.

Saturday morning we got up early and left by 8:00 toward Houston. T– had been smart enough to print out directions everywhere we were going (I’d have just relied on the GPS) so we weren’t completely helpless. Saturday morning AB was a little fussier about being stuck in her car seat than she had been Friday, but it wasn’t too bad, and we made it in to Perry’s place a little bit before noon. He gave us the tour of the house, we chased AB off the stairs, and followed her around while she chased the cats from room to room. Then my sister showed up with her family, and Mom and Dad showed up with Granddad, and we all had sandwiches for lunch.

Dad and I ran up to the grocery store to pick up some supplies, and that became a longer ordeal than it needed to be (but it gave me a time to provide some advice on his book, for which he was grateful). Then I got back to find T– and AB in the pool. It was so hot that I didn’t hesitate to change into my swimsuit and join them. I was only out there about half an hour before my uncle announced dinner was almost ready, and we all headed in to get cleaned up.

Dinner was steaks, and was fantastic. After that, Jeff and I spent the evening getting Civ set up on his laptop and Dad’s, and the three of us played until late into the night. There was a Sooners game on — first of the season! — but it was pay-per-view and Dad couldn’t talk us into chipping in to order it. Civ was sufficient to entertain us.

We were up too late, so church at 10:00 the next morning came way too early. We made it, though. They attend a pretty progressive church, with a five piece rock band for the praise team, so I spent most of the service watching the drummer and about half of it tapping along on my knees. It was quite educational.

Actually, even though I had to leave Rock Band behind in OKC, I spent the whole weekend practicing. I did most of the driving, and whatever music I could find on the radio, I would try to pick out the drum rhythm and follow it — at least the way it would be presented in Rock Band. There’s a particular combination of high hat, snare, and bass drum that is incredibly consistent in the Rock Band songs (at least at the easier difficulties), and which I’d had a lot of trouble with all of last week. While I was driving, I spent hours at a time practicing that specific pattern, until the independent movements of left hand, right hand, and right foot all made sense to me. I didn’t know how much of it would be useful, and how much I was just being silly, but I did get much better at recognizing and picking out the drum part of songs just over the course of that first drive from OKC to Dallas.

Anyway, Sunday afternoon after church we left my uncle and his family and headed toward Galveston for a day at the beach. We stopped at a Mexican place there in Tomball (the little town outside Houston where my uncle lives), then drove the hour-and-a-half out to Galveston. Granddad rode with T– and AB and me, and he entertained us on the drive with stories of trips to the beach, from throughout his life. A surprising number of them involved hurricanes, too, which was topical. All weekend the TV stayed on the Weather Channel, tracking Hurricane Gustav.

In Galveston, we drove along the beach for a bit then stopped at a Wendy’s to change into our swimsuits. While I was changing, I put my cheap Wal-Mart sunglasses on top of a hand dryer, and some dude ended up snatching them and walking out the front door with them before I had a chance to go back and grab them. Whatever. I walked over to the Surf Shop next door and bought a new pair for $7.

Then we finally got out into the ocean. In spite of all my grousing about having to spend a whole hour outdoors, I really had a good time. At water parks, my favorite spot is always the wave pool. This time we got to take AB out into the waves, and she loved it. Jeff had little Sophie, too, and she stayed with us even when we went out deep. It was fun.

Fourth wave that hit me, though, ripped my new sunglasses off my face and hid them somewhere in the bottom of the ocean. I spent about five minutes trying to find them, but after about ten seconds they were already lost to me. Argh.

I had just as much fun anyway, though, and I was disappointed when Mom and Dad called us back to the beach and said it was time to go. We drove up to a gas station that turned out to have only one bathroom, got changed back into dry clothes, and then headed back for Tomball, this time with Mom riding in the back with AB.

Just as we were getting into Houston, AB’s stomach rebelled at the cereal Mom was giving her (and, much more likely, all the saltwater and sand she’d swallowed while playing in the waves). She made a huge mess in her car seat, and I was trying to follow Dad through dense traffic, at high speeds, in an unfamiliar town (and without directions or a GPS). That was no fun. Mom and T– between them got her cleaned up, but the whole car smelled like vomit and I have a sensitivity to that. It was not a fun ninety minutes….

We finally got home, though, and Perry had some fantastic fajitas ready for us for dinner. We were all exhausted after the day’s events, too, so after dinner we fell to talking and Dad and Jeff and I played some Civ and it was all very low key. Around midnight we gave up on our game, and headed to bed.

Then we got up fairly early Monday morning, but with all the chatting and saying goodbye, it was nearly 10:00 before we got out of town. We made good time, though, and got to Dallas right at 1:00 where Grandma and Darla and Jason met us at Chik Fil’A for a quick lunch, then an hour later we were back on the road.

We got home at about 5:45, unpacked the car, looked around the house to make sure the cats hadn’t made any messes (and silently blessed B– and E– for taking care of the litterbox over the weekend, which was the reason they hadn’t), and then set the table for our dinner guests.

K– and N– showed up at 6:30 with some P F Chang’s, and D– got in about fifteen minutes later with soda. We had a delicious dinner, then watched An American Tail (as part of our 80s Movies thing), and then rocked out for an hour or so before bedtime.

Y’know, I wasn’t too excited about spending my holiday weekend on the road, but I had a lot more fun than I thought I would. I always forget just how cool Perry and his family are, especially the kids, and then it was a much quieter weekend (in terms of schedule) than most such family get-togethers are. Maybe it’s because Labor Day doesn’t have the same traditional demands associated with it as a Thanksgiving or a Christmas.

But, yeah, it was awesome. And then while I was playing Rock Band last night, that particular drum pattern that I had been practicing in the car on Friday kept showing up, in song after song, and every time it came up I nailed it. Bah-DAH! So that’s awesome. I also learned that the intro to “Enter Sandman” can kick my ass, well and truly, but I’m working on that next.

Now I’m home, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be home until October. I’m grateful for that.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.