Maryland-Philadelphia trip

Gwen and I returned yesterday from a trip to Maryland and Philadelphia. The nominal reason for the trip was my cousin Josh’s wedding, but we wound up getting a lot more out of it than that.

It was, for one thing, an opportunity for Gwen to meet the family. In a pretty high-intensity way, admittedly: we all stayed in the same place, a miniscule house right in the old part of Annapolis called simply the House on Cornhill. My guess is that the whole house is less than 600 square feet, with very low ceilings, a funhouse staircase, and no right angles. Actually, though, it was quite pleasant.

We arrived at BWI on Thursday afternoon, a little later than expected because of heavy weather that kept us on the ground an extra two hours in St Louis. We picked up a rental car that we had reserved and drove in. Handy tip: if you reserve the super-cheap “economy” model, you’ll probably get the next class up anyhow. In our case, that meant getting a Dodge Neon instead of a Geo Metro. The Neon is no great shakes. I’m glad I don’t own one.

The wedding wasn’t until Saturday, so we had a fair amount of time to just hang out in Annapolis. One improbable high point was watching the Anna Nicole Show at the house. It was a bit like gawking at a car wreck.

The rehersal dinner was at the boathouse on St John’s campus, as it had been for both of Josh’s siblings. The ceremony was at the great hall on campus, as it had been for Josh’s brother Nat. After that, a bagpiper led us in a procession through the streets to the reception at a hotel a few blocks away. The ceremony was nice enough, though the rabbi made a few attempts at humor that wound up simply coming off as snarky to some people.

We all drifted out of the reception around 10:00 PM, headed back to the house, and changed. My sisters, Gwen, and myself went to a bar for beer and raw oysters, which was fun, but would have been better if we could hear each other talk.

Next morning we headed over to Sandy and Joe’s for a breakfast that consisted largely of bagels and various fishy things. That was fun, but we wanted to make good time up to Philadelphia, so we hit the road reasonably early.

The drive went by quickly and without incident. We stopped at a truck stop outside Wilmington DE and bought postcards. Delaware. What a silly excuse for a state. Texas has parks bigger than Delaware. Do those parks have their own senators? No.

In Philadelphia, we visited my friend Jen. She suggested we visit the Mütter Museum of medical oddities, which we enthusiastically agreed to. This was, obviously, another high point of the trip. Skeletons of conjoined-twin foetuses, a preserved giant colon, anacephalic foetuses floating in formaldehyde, etc. For entertainment, you can’t beat that with a stick.

Dinner was at a local seafood joint in Jen’s neighborhood, where Gwen indulged her craving for crab. King crab legs. I helped her out a little with those. Yum. After that, we made our way to the Nodding Head bar, where we had very tasty deserts. We were joined by Jen’s friend Vik, who hails from Annapolis originally. We talked about our trip, and he asked “Were you going to Lesley Donohoe’s wedding?” Yup. Small world. We participated in a trivia game the bar ran. We came in second, which won us a $25 gift certificate that covered more than half our tab. We would have won if my teammates hadn’t voted down a correct answer I suggested.

We headed back to Jen’s to crash. On the way there, walking up Van Pelt, a very old-looking street, Vik pointed out some of the historic features. Some of the houses had plaques showing a pine tree or what have you on their facades. Vik explained that before Philadelphia had a city fire department, it had private fire departments. Homeowners would subscribe to one fire department or another, and if you house caught fire or was at risk, your fire department would save your house, but if the neighbor subscribed to a different fire department, they wouldn’t waste any energy on that house. Vik also pointed out these mirror contraptions poking out from second-floor windows. These were used somewhat like security cameras today, to see who was at the front door.

The next morning, Jen, Vik, Gwen, and I headed out in the car to a restaurant Jen had pegged as a good breakfast joint. Closed Mondays. Plan B. That place didn’t open until 10:00 AM. Vik came up with Plan C, which turned out to be a tasty, homey little diner-type place called Sabrina’s. Walking towards it, we passed a bakery with irresistable smells emanating from it. We promised ourselves to stop their on the way back to the car. After stuffing ourselves on omelettes and other tasty morsels, we waddled back to the bakery, Isgro’s, where we picked up more yummies to bring with us to our next stop. The woman serving us at the counter encouraged us to have some of the cannoli halves they had set out as very generous free samples, but none of us had the room. We picked up some cannoli, crème brûlée, and something like a raspberry croissant.

We dropped Jen and Vik back on their street and set off. The drive back was almost identical to the drive up, and seemed to go by even more quickly.

Our destination was Takoma Park, MD, where we met up with Gwen’s old friends Sonya and Reed. They’re interesting folks, and we had a fun time poking around with Sonya. They have two young children, who inevitably required a lot of attention, and who are both very fond of Gwen.

Tuesday morning we headed out for the airport, made it there without incident, and were impressed by the zero-paperwork rental-car return. A woman waiting there with a handheld computer had punched up the license plate number, found our records, and printed out a receipt before we had even gotten out of the car. Gwen wound up spending at least five minutes at the BWI security checkpoint on account of a suspicious-looking perfume bottle (apparently because of its proximity to Washington DC, security at BWI is especially rigorous). I also noticed a guy with a badge of some sort, but in plain-clothes, being subjected to the whole shoes-off routine.

Our flight home was uneventful, and it was good to be back. Within two hours of landing, my allergies had bounced back. We had dinner at Guero’s to re-acquaint our tastebuds with spicy food.