Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ellicott City or Bust!

Saturday morning, Elise asked me what I wanted to do today, not knowing that she already had aspirations for an expedition.

Before we even moved to Washington, Elise had told me that she wanted to go on a road trip every weekend. I was initially skeptical. I didn't think there were enough destinations to fill an appetite of one road trip per week. That was before Elise informed me she had booked mark a website with 12 travel destinations within a few hours drive of the Washington, D.C. metro area. She was ready to make good on her promise.

I had no idea what I wanted to do on Saturday. I press through the week with little thought to the weekend, usually simply content to make it from one day to the next relatively intact. By Saturday morning, three kids who are starved for my attention beg me for waffles, chocolate chip pancakes, microwaveable silver dollar flapjacks from Trader Joes, bacon, sausage links, and sausage patties. The Iron Chef I am not, and one of the main reasons I don't make dinner anymore is because I hate feeling rushed. I don't work in a diner, and getting enough food in three kids fast enough so I don't have a full scale riot on my hands is stressful. As soon as I have breakfast on the table, they wolf it down and are gone. I clean the kitchen, then ten minutes later, they're back for a snack, somehow starving. I've reluctantly accepted my lot and the fact that this will only get worse. They're not even teenagers yet, and I know they will eventually eat us out of house and home.

By Saturday morning, I have given zero thought to what I want to do today except for what I want to do everyday...go for a run. Have some coffee. I did know I wanted to eat something good. A burger. Maybe some fries. A beer at lunch. That's all. Low aspirations.

Elise wanted to go to Ellicot City.

I hadn't even heard of Ellicot City, much less know where it was or why she would want to go there, but--knowing I had already wholeheartedly agreed that we would go on one road trip per weekend before coming back to DC--I wholeheartedly agreed, too, we should go to Ellicot City. They had a train museum...I mean, how bad could it be, right?

Right! Ellicot City was beautiful. Even on a surprisingly cold and drizzly day. Some of the more recent photos to the right --> were taken there.

It was about an hour drive. We arrived around 11:00, and instead of going to lunch first, we decided to go to the little B&O railroad museum in the original Ellicot City train station. Founded in 1772, the town itself was cute and quaint with a main street of old Colonial-era buildings now storefronts for rows of antique stores, among the shops offering more eclectic wares such as handmade wooden razors, record stores, a Grateful Dead/hippie store, and other coffee shops and galleries.

The train museum was small but interesting and it had a caboose and model railroad for the kids. After the train museum we walked across the street to have lunch at the Phoenix Emporium, and I got my burger and fries, along with a beer with lunch and NCAA conference playoff basketball on the TVs.

After lunch we explored a few more of the shops, including an antique store that sold slabs of raw wood for desks or dining room tables. Elise and I daydreamed and promised ourselves we'd be back.

The next morning, we sprang forward, lost an hour of sleep, then ran out the door to catch a morning matinee showing of "Zootopia". One of the most jarring aspects of being back in the U.S. after having spent two years in India is how much the movie-going experience had changed. In Chennai, there were very few movie theaters that showed first-run movies, only a handful that ran movies from the U.S., so you had to purchase tickets days in advance with reserved seats like you were going to a sporting event or concert. If you bought the tickets online, you had to have them delivered to your house. As you have probably read in this blog before, having anything delivered to our house in Chennai--a city where every house has an "old" address and "new address, neither of which are of very much use in a city where everything is located by landmarks--was a disaster. So, going to the movies in India was a huge production. Guess what? So is going to the movies in America. Seemingly, gone are the days where you look outside your window, see that is raining, and decide to go catch a flick on a whim. We tried to do that last weekend, and upon reaching the box office were told that the only seats that were available for the 10:00 showing were in the very first row and the only seats available for the 10:50 showing were in the first two rows. Sadly, we decided to wait until the following weekend much to the kids' disappointment.

The following weekend rolled around, and I failed to order tickets in advance, reluctant to plop down the $50 for movie tickets if the kids weren't going to be up for going. We did end up going without advance tickets and were again told the only available seats were in the first two rows! We decided to go to the 10:00 showing because the tickets were only $11.00. I know this isn't India anymore where movie tickets were the equivalent of $1.25, but an evening showing was $15 per person! It would have cost us $62 to take the whole family to see the movie, and that is before popcorn and candy! What is the point of going to the movie theater if you don't get popcorn and candy?? When it's all said and done, you've shelled out a c-note for the cost of two months worth of unlimited movies streaming over the internet.

Anyway, I wasn't going to disappoint the kids two weeks in a row. We bucked up and went with the second row seats. The movie was good, but unexpectedly intense. As the animal citizens of Zootopia began to turn savage, Sam grew anxious. Truth be told, he wasn't all that into it from the beginning. I think we were just way too close and the movie was way too loud for his liking. Before the movie even started, he asked if we were staying for the whole thing. I don't think the live-action preview of "The Jungle Book" helped. Talk about ruining a perfectly good movie by "updating" it with over-the-top violence and intensity.

As the jaguar turned savage and began snarling at the screen, Sam had had enough and wanted to leave. Pete and Clem wanted to stay. I had taken the kids to the movie by myself while Elise went shopping, so I texted her and asked her to come get Sam. She did, but I think the damage had already been done as Sam has been unusually anxious at night going to bed. He says he doesn't like to be alone and has asked me to lay with him for the past couple of nights while he goes to sleep. I am very conscientious about what movies I think the kids can handle, especially when it comes to violence. For instance, I wouldn't take them to see the new "Star Wars". because it was rated PG-13, even though every other parent was taking their kids to see it. Don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars, and was very disappointed when the first trailer came out and I realized the movie was going to be too dark for the kids, because one of my daydreams is to share the movies with them so they can experience the same magic I did as a kid their age. Maybe it's just me but MAJOR SPOILER ALERT I don't think of patricide, mass genocide, planet smashing, etc etc to be themes appropriate for little kids. Obviously, Elise and I are in the minority on this point, or else I don't think the movie would have earned a gazillion dollars at box office.

Hopefully, this too shall pass, and his mind is once again filled with only happy thoughts.

After a late lunch at one of our new favorite fast casual spots, Cava Mezze, we stopped at the grocery then came home for some down time. Elise bought steaks and we grilled even though it was still cold and drizzly. Not a bad end to a not-bad weekend.

Grilling buddies.

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