First a bit of general catching up. The last 8 days of October saw Simon & I heading to the US for Simon's brother's wedding in Las Vegas. Ironically, the Brit wedding was my first Vegas wedding. But, I'm already getting ahead of myself.
Simon & I were (for lack of a better, more PC way of putting it..) 'responsible' for Simon's dad on this trip-financially, socially, logistically, everything-ly. This meant that Simon's dad was with us from the Friday before we departed (Oct 22) until mid-last week (Nov 3). I think I've said before how much I like Simon's dad (read: I'm about to complain about him, so I should remind myself and others-including Simon, who reads this blog how much I actually like his father)....but, 13 days with a 56 year old man going on 80 (health-wise) almost broke me. I won't go into the details-there's no need-but, spending that much time with Simon's dad was stressful, draining, gave us no chance to have much quality time, and gave me a startling glimpse into the future of what it could be like if I don't start taking better of myself. That last statement is a bit extreme, but seeing how difficult it was for his 56 year-old father to walk even 20 feet at times, and watching him inhale almost every meal as if it were his last has put the fear in me. I'm going to try to be more mindful of my own health-be more cognizant of what-and how I eat, exercise more, and in general try to take better care of myself.
OK. That was a bit of a tangent on the US trip, but it's been sitting on my shoulders for a week now-and if for no other reason than to remind myself-I wanted to get it down.
The US trip was big for several reasons-two of which have already been mentioned (brother's wedding and my 'ephiphany.'), but there was another biggie looming at the start of this trip: our Dads met for the first time. Here's how this went down: Our 10-day trip to the US involved a 2-night stopover in Charlotte, 5 days in Vegas and 2 final nights in Philadelphia. It was a bit much, but we didn't think Simon's dad would be able to make the 11 hour direct flight to Vegas. So, we decided to break the trip up into more managable legs-and in particular try to swing by North Carolina so our dads could meet before the wedding.
Charlotte was fantastic. The weather for the 48 hours we were there was simply perfect, it was gret to see my dad (& his gf), and surprisingly-though we'd lightly joked about needing 'translators' between my dad's heavy Southern accent & Simon's dad's heavy Scouse accent, there was only once where there was the need for translation. :)
Vegas was..Vegas. It's been 10 years since I've been to Vegas, and it's totally changed-and stayed the same-all at the same time! More hotel/resorts and 'stuff', but the look & feel of Vegas really hasn't change. Surprisingly, I really, really enjoyed my time there-and Simon did as well-and I think it was largely because we didn't try to force too much. We hung out, gambled a wee bit our first night, had some drinks, did some touristy things with the wedding (limo ride on the strip...good times...), but really just approached the trip as a way to hang out. It was the right thing to do. Hindsight Vegas is like New Year's Eve: the harder you try to have fun, the less fun you'll actually have. Just go with the flow, and you'll be surprised. For both of us, the wedding aside (that was truly good), our favourite part of the trip was actualy the last full day we had -when we rented a car and left Las Vegas. Simon, his dad & I took a trip down to the Hoover Dam, had a putter around and then came back to the hotel to drop his dad off (he was falling asleep in the back seat at noon-by now, the trip was catching up with him), and then went on to Red Rock Canyon. Wow. I mean, Wow. If you've never been, it's just a 30 minute drive off The Strip, and is well worth the effort. Simply amazing. And, after the faux-feel of Vegas, and the dry, re-circulated air in the casinos, it was nice to get out & about-roll the windows down in the car and enjoy the sun. Loved it. Hindsight 20/20, I would have worn better shoes so we could have taken a hike. But, I didn't know, so most of our adventure was just a few feet off the National Park highway.
After Vegas, we spent 2 nights in Philly. I'd been to Philly before, but neither Simon or his dad had. We arrived around 4pm on Friday, and were at the hotel by 5pm. We dropped our stuff off and then headed out for a putter before it got dark. Simon's dad was struggling to walk around too much, so our putter mainly consisted of heading to Chinatown for dinner before heading back to the hotel to drop his dad off before we headed back out to walk around and go have drinks. We ended up at a hotel bar (surprisingly good hotel bar at The Mariott...), where around 9pm, it was clear that there was a large party taking place in the bar. Well dressed people started appearing, the music got louder, and a few security folks started showing up. We didn't have a clue what was going on, so we asked the bartender. 'Networking event,' he told us. At 9pm in a bar on a Friday night? OK. But, here's the thing. Whatever this event was, it was clearly for African-Americans. Past a point, Simon & I were the only two white people in the bar area. And, while we were sitting at the bar, I was casually listening to the two guys talk behind us, and caught snippets of converations on the other side of Simon & around us. There's probably no PC way to say this either, and the intent of what I'm trying to say is for good not evil, but it dawned on me in the bar: I miss being in the company of African Americans. Both casually/socially and the friends I have. There is a lack of diversity in my life now-and even in my life in Seattle-that can only be described as 'white.' And, I don't like it. Nothing I can do about it, but even as just someone sitting on the side-lines at the bar in Philly, I was happier just for sitting there. Anyhoo.
Saturday in Philly was tourist day. We got tickets for the hop-on, hop-off bus (though, we really just hopped on...), and took a spin around Philly. It was funny seeing the town-one of the hearts of the American Revolution-with two Brits. I think Simon & his dad both thought our 'history' (recent to British history in comparison) a bit quaint, and obviously, what they had learned about the American Revolution in school had a slightly different spin that what I learned-and what the tour guides were saying! Aside from the general tour, we had a putter around Reading Terminal Market-so I could get my Farmer's Market fix (no Borough for two weeks). Lovely. I'd been there before, and it was just as incredible as my first trip. Huge thumbs up if you're ever in Philly...
By 5pm, Simon's dad was done for the day, so we dropped him off at the hotel, freshened up and caught our breath, and then headed back out. We first stopped at McGillans Olde Ale House-the oldest pub in Philadelphia for a few beers. What a great place. Ridiculously reasonable prices, not too busy, and we got to catch a few football and baseball games on TV. After that we had a wander around town before settling on Italian for dinner. In fact, we liked McGillans so much, we went there with Simon's dad the next day for lunch! :)
We flew back to London on Sunday nite-landing on Monday. It was an incredibly fast-but at times painfully slow-trip. It's always good to be back in the US, but that should be my last trip to the US for quite some time. For the first time in my life, I'm not going 'home for the holidays.' I'll be staying in London and celebrating with Simon. Food for fodder in a few weeks for the blog, I'm sure!