Not Bangor, But Bust

Final Update: April 28, 2005 log continues here

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I couldn't have cared less about the fact that it was Stoner Day. No, my sense of anticipation was over my impending return to New England after a year. But not long after I left the house, my excitement was muted by severe congestion and sneezing. I chose not to take any medication because I wanted to let the symptoms progress so I could get an idea of whether I was suffering from allergies or instead a dreaded illness. Not that I'm scared of the flu or a cold--I've had both many times. But I was about to do a lot of driving, and planning to spend Thursday night in 29-degree weather in Bangor, ME, and being sick could turn that experience from enlightening and refreshing to just plain miserable. I asked my dev lead to pray for my health, if not out of concern for me, then out of concern for the project.

My departure was almost delayed by having to do actual work, and help a coworker get set up with my code, but thankfully I got it to work and managed to leave around 3:00. This gave me time for a stop at the Hustler Club in Baltimore, which, though expensive, actually offers a bargain before 4:00 PM with 2-for-one lap dances. The trick, though, is to keep moving around, so the waitress doesn't make you buy a drink, until you find the right dancer. While waiting to get in, I noticed one thing of interest--a couple of guys in wheelchairs entering the club. Given that Larry Flynt is in a wheelchair, I would expect the club to be ultra-accessible to the disabled. When the hostess mentioned two-for-one lap dances, one of the guys in the wheelchair said something like "'s not like I can feel anything." I didn't feel sorry for him or anything--I'm not the sympathetic type. But I truly hoped that I would never be in that situation, where I couldn't feel anything below the waist.

Next I headed to pick up some take-out dinner. A block from Los Primos was an adult (XXX) theater. I had some time to kill, and I had never before been inside one, so I paid my $9 and went in. The place seemed empty, but after my eyes adjusted, I could see people (probably all guys) scattered throughout. A couple of guys were standing up in the bag. One moved around. I sat down off to the side, and seconds later one of the guys that had been standing at the back sat in the row behind me, off to the side. I moved, and in doing so hit my shin against some part of the seat I couldn't see. I went over to the other side, then decided to go back to the right, but further up and away from that guy. I tried to cut across the middle section but hit my shin again, really hard this time. I decided to take the long way. I sat there until I figured my foot was ready, and when I got up to leave I hit my left shin yet again, but not so hard. As I headed back up the aisle I noticed the guy that had sat behind me sit back down--he had apparently been coming towards me. Creepy.

Later, when I changed from my slacks into shorts for the drive, I noticed that the cut and bruise on my shin was really bad.

At the Latin restaurant Los Primos I noticed something unusual. Rather than ringing me up herself when I handed the waitress the money, she instead turned around and rang a bell, an indication to another employee to come pick up th echeck and money. The register was right there behind the counter though. Then, when he finished, he rang the bell again for her to give me my change. Seemed kind of inefficient to me. Oh, well, at least they got my salad right this time, without dressing.

I had scheduled a massage with my favorite therapist, in Cranbury. If I'm congested the face-down portion can be uncomfortable if I start sniffling, and sometimes it's harder to breath. So before I started the drive I took some fake benadryl and later some other random allergy pill. As soon as I exited the New Jersey Turnpike, I sneezed several times, and I could feel pressure in my forehead and the start of a headache. The pills couldn't have worn off so soon, and I was convinced that I was in fact getting sick. Not gwood.

I was trying to be more cautious with my leftovers, to avoid getting sick, so I had Bonnie heat up my container and I polished off another third of the meal.

I was going to head up to the first rest area to sleep immediately after the massage, but when I got back in my car This American Life was on, and I wanted to find out how that brave, brave Quizno's employeer tried to save her store after the owners gave up on it. So I drove a little further, and finally when the show was over I caught some Zs in Trenton for a few hours before finally moving on to a service area.

April 21

I left the Joyce Kilmer service area around 10:15 and unsure if I'd slept enough or what exactly was happening with my illness. I wasn't sneezing or nose-blowing, but my nasal passages were constricted, making it hard to breath. I was feeling the beginnings of a headache that felt like it could turn severe, but it might also have been caffeine withdrawal, because I had spilled much of my coffee on Wednesday and not stopped at Starbucks again.

I hoped that some food would make me feel better, so when I exited the turnpike at the GSP I tried to make my way to an older Starbucks in Woodbridge first to check my e-mail, expecting to find a bagel shop on the way. I actually approached a police officer for one, in the Starbucks, to ask about a bagel shop. He wasn't sure, but directed me along a slightly different route back to the GSP. I passed a lot of restaurants along Green Street, including a mini-cluster if Indian ones, but no bagels before the GSP. Thankfully, there was a service area just a few miles up, and I stopped to get gas and heat up the final portion of my leftovers.

Almost directly across Route 23 from the new Starbucks in Wayne was a bagel shop, and I grumbled that I had not found it sooner. After I got my coffee and cleaned up the back of my car I decided the leftovers I'd finished were hardly anything and that I'd be hungry again soon, so I figured I might as well grab a bagel sandwich while I was there. Studio 54 Bagels--did the place turn into a nightclub at

I thought back to something I'd mentioned to Bill the previous weekend, how it might be an interesting project (for someone else) to visit every bagel shop

Mafrushka! Forgot to ask for water at the Starbucks. The way I was feeling I was going through a lot of water. I had actually had to buy a bottle the night before, and I hate paying for water.

1:27, food had been in my system for several hours, coffee for 30 minutes, yet headache persisted, pressure possibly intensifying. Start to worry. In the past, severe headaches have rendered me unable to drive.

On US-9 north towards Poughkeepsie I spotted a Borders and popped in to check my mail and read that article about Desperate Housewives in Vanity Fair. I thought about how I used to be a die-hard Barnes & Noble fan, eschewing Borders and thinking myself all the cooler for my preference. But then T-Mobile changed everything.

I debated the etiquette of answering e-mails from the toilet. It's well known people don't like being called on the phone from the bathroom (there's a very funny Dilbert cartoon about that), but what about e-mail? IM?

2:37, and my headache had shifted from just pressure to a stabbing pain, and I was plagued by a maddening thirst. One thing that helped was that the weather was much cooler than when I left Maryland.

I was focused on not missing my turn to US-44, but by chance I happened to glance to my left just in time to spot a Stasrbucks!!! hat the fuck??? I was immediately thrown into a state of confusion. It didn't look like the original Poughkeepsie store, and when I pulled up my photo to be sure, I could clearly see if was a different store. I scrambled to turn around--I had to pull into a shopping center to do so. I asked for the manager and went ahead and explained my project because otherwise he'd wonder why I was so curious about the store. Well, he had heard of me and had wondered why I hadn't visited. The reason was I'd accidentally miscategorized the store as licensed. It had IBM in the title and I assumed it was inside some corporate building. Oops.

Couple of things of interest in Poughkeepsie: The Vanderbilt Mansion. Vassar.

The manager called over to the next store and told the DM I was on my way, and she waited for me. Both she and the manager seem intrigued to meet me and were very welcoming.

3:36, and at least the headache hasn't gotten worse.

I took US-44 west to the Taconic State Parkway, which I like to call the "tachronic", because it's a good road for rolling fast with a fat blunt. On the way, some idiot let a school bus turn in front of her, and we had to wait for it to stop like a million times. A little girl got out and grabbed the mail before running in to the house. She dropped a piece and didn't notice. It didn't fall the way an envelope would, and I figured it was just an ad, but my conscience made me turn around and go back to the house. Yep, it was just an ad. I didn't bother to take it up to the front door, as I'd just get a funny look.

On the Tachronic, some asshole who must have been smoking something kept moving in front of me, then slowing down, then when I passed in order to keep pace with the faster truck ahead, he would speed back up and pass. This was very annoying because I was studying my Scrabble words and didn't want to have to keep my eye on both the car ahead and some idiot in my blind spot. Finally I said fuck it and stopped for gas so I could ditch the loser.

4:47 and my headache seemed to be fading, but replaced by pressure in my left ear.

In Pittsfield the manager said she enjoyed my site, enjoyed looking at the photos of stores back in Denver where she was from. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I looked at the distance to detour to Queensbury, the time, and the way I was feeling, and I decided to leave Queensbury for another day. Instead, I decided to take SR-9 west to Amherst and try to get a sunset photo.

As I approached North Hampton I saw the the sun still had a while to go before setting, so, in my usual manner of trying to fit as much in as possible, I decided to reshoot that store. I passed it up and got stuck in traffic and cursed at all the other cars. I was even more irritable because my bladder was about to burst. I got my shots and rushed off towards Amherst, stopping behind a building, and I made it to the store while it was lit in some beautiful subdued sunset light. Excellent. I shot the fuck out of the store, thirty frames in all, from several angles.

A couple of doors down from the Starbucks was a restaurant, Judie's. I didn't have the motivation to hunt around, and the line was long, so I figured it had to be good. I saw something unusual on the menu, something called a "popover". I ordered the gumbo one.

At 7:07 I sat down at the Starbucks to work on my site while I waited for my food. Strangely enough, even though I was finally "relaxing" and had stopped moving, my headache seemed to get much worse, and quickly.

The popover was different than I expected. I thought the gumbo would be inside the big round puffy piece of bread, but it was instead in a separate plate. It wasn't bad, though. Even though the gumbo had shrimp, which I'm not partial to, I liked it. Wouldn't order it again, but it was okay. I was a little confused though, about how to eat the shrimp. I didn't think I was supposed to eat the hard tail portion, but since the shrimp was in the gumbo it was messy to grab.

I couple sat down behind me, though I didn't realize it at first since both were male, until one of the baristas pointed it out. I realized I was in Massachusetts, and I asked if they were married, but they weren't. I'd yet to meet a legally married homosexual couple.

I finally got around to working out the distance to Bangor, and when I did I realized I wouldn't arrive 'til like 2:00 AM, which would give me very little sleep before having to head back down to Westford for Scrabble. I soon left, and as I sped east on I-90 I waffled back and forth. I stopped at a service area and tried to sleep, figuring I'd decide later based on how I felt. After an hour, I think I had only barely drifted off, so the stop turned out to be a waste. I figured I might as well keep going and stop only when exhausted enough to fall asleep right away.

I drove as far as a service area in Maine about 20 miles south of Portland. It was around 12:47, and inside the building was a Bank of America ATM. I checked my balance--my direct deposit had not posted. Grrr.... Earlier, I had tried to use my card for gas and it had been denied. I couldn't figure out why, because the balance was still showing as $53. That worried me a little, but I still had some cash and a credit card with a few hundred dollars available. Enough to get me back to Maryland if necessary.

2:30 AM, the deposit had posted. Yay, money!!!

April 22

I visited a couple of stores in Maine and then headed to my Scrabble tournament.

April 23

After Scrabble I headed down to Cambridge and visited the Fresh Pond and Cambridge Center stores. After a detour to Peabody, I headed back down to East Milton and visited that store before it closed, and the a nearby Quincy store the following morning. I totally forgot to call another store near Cambridge to see if a fan of my site was working, so I could drop by and say hi. By the time I remembered it was too late, and in the morning I was running late and didn't have time to detour either.

April 24

After a disappointing performance in Scrabble, I was only too eager to rush off and get my losses of my mind (yeah, like that was really gonna happen). First stop was Southborough, a store that had actually been open during the previous year's tournament, but only listed in the "hidden" portion of the Starbucks store locator. The barista there recognized me from an earlier store and was excited by my visit. After getting pounded in Scrabble, I needed that ego boost.

After Medway, I was off-interstate, SR-126 towards Rhode Island. I passed through a Bellingham, one without Starbucks, and I spotted about the coolest-named comics book shop ever, Rubber Chicken Comics. Of course I had to stop, not just to give the owner his propz, but also to see if their were any books not on my subcription down in Houston. Plus, I like going into a shop every now and again just to smell that comic book air.

A couple of doors down was Nonnie Rose's Bakery and Coffee Shop. I still hadn't found lunch, so I popped in to see what they had to tide me over. When I spotted the cream puffs, I knew I had to get one. I hadn't ever seen cream puffs in the States, and only once in my life, in Tokyo.

Outside I went back to my car and--son of a bitch--they did it to me again!!! Another handicapped space with the icon in yellow, and faded, making it even harder for me to see. I swore if I ever got a ticket because of that...

As I continued on towards RI, I learned a very imporant lesson. Don't ever eat a cream puff while driving!

On the way to pick up the highway towards Hartford I passed through historic downtown Woonsocket, and when I spotted the Main Street 2000 restaurant, with it's bright red neon sign advertising "HOT WEINERS", I had to stop. I mean, who can pass up hot weiners? The place had a few old timers hanging out, evidently not the trendy restaurant in town. While I waited to order a group came in including an older lady, maybe a little crazy from the way she talked through her single tooth. I actually wanted a burger, but the grill was off (what's up with that), so I settled for a weiner and some fries.

But it wasn't all AARP. Not, a hot hoochie mama, accent indeterminate, walked by in a print dress, and shakin' it like she meant it. I pulled up to her and axed if she wanted me to teach her how to beat all her friends at Scrabble. Not unsurprisingly, she passed on my generous offer.

After Woonsocket I worked my way back to the Mass Pike, and then to I-84 down into the Hartford area. First up was Evergreen Walk in South Windsor, and I noticed the street was not on my mapping program. I called for directions, but the left turn the barista told me to take put me heading out of town, into a residential area. I had to end up going back to a different Starbucks, the Manchester one, and asking directions. The other one turned out to be just a couple of minutes away. The time I lost around South Windsor is the exact reason why I when I call up places I don't ask for directions, but rather where they are located in terms of major streets.

As usual, my projections had been completely off, and by the time I finished at the Shelton store (where a barista had read about me, but couldn't remember where) and reached Bridgeport it was almost 8:00. There wouldn't be time to stop in NYC, but at least I was still able to visit the new Norwalk store, because its lobby doesn't close 'til midnight, and the drive-thru never closes. YAY!!!

By the time I reached Norwalk it was after 10:00, and I had trouble finding food, so I just settled for gas station grub to tide me over. I was in a hurry. By the time I reached the NJ Turnpike it was almost midnight, and I was tired and stopped at the first rest area. But in the wee hours I got moving again to avoid getting stuck in traffic heading down to the tunnels into Manhattan. I stopped at another rest area closer to Delaware and slept as long as I could.

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